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Colonial Pipeline opening delayed to Monday or Tuesday, company says

Posted September 3

— In a news release on Sunday, the Colonial Pipeline Company announced that final repairs to a pipeline providing gasoline to much of the South won't be finished until Monday or Tuesday. The pipeline was originally planned to reopen Sunday.

The Colonial Pipeline provides nearly 40 percent of the South's gasoline. On Thursday, pipelines west of Lake Charles, Louisiana were shutdown due to damage from Hurricane Harvey, spiking gas prices in southern states, including North Carolina.

The pipeline runs underground and is now under water in many parts of Texas, where inspections are needed before it can be fully operational again, a spokesman said.

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"We continue to work expeditiously to complete final repairs to our facilities damaged by the storm, and to assess our lines and right of ways to ensure the integrity of our system between Houston and Hebert," the company said in a news release.

Current estimated expect the pipeline to restart between Houston and Hebert on Monday for distillates and on Tuesday for gasoline.

Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday declared a state of emergency in order to allow gasoline to move into and through North Carolina amid delivery problems caused by Hurricane Harvey.

The executive order, signed Thursday afternoon, will temporarily waive the cap on the maximum hours of service restrictions for fuel vehicles traveling in and through North Carolina to help maintain gas supplies.

"Hurricane Harvey's damage to refineries in Texas and Louisiana could ripple throughout the southeast, causing gasoline shortages and rising prices," Cooper said. "I'm taking action to make it easier to get gasoline into our state so North Carolinians who need gas can get it."

The Georgia-based company remains able to operate its pipeline from Louisiana to states east and northeast of there, though deliveries will be "intermittent," the company said.

Challenges remain for the nation's system of getting gasoline to the pumps of service stations, since Hurricane Harvey forced the shutdown of at least eight Texas refineries. Pump prices have surged — the average for a gallon of regular gasoline rose from about $2.35 a week ago to $2.45 now, AAA reported. The price spike is more dramatic in some states such as Georgia, where the average cost per gallon of regular gas has climbed from $2.22 a week ago to $2.39 now.

Around the Triangle, gas prices were as high as $2.55 and AAA spokeswoman Sandra Horton said the price hike could affect families thinking about hitting the road for Labor Day weekend.

"It would impact many of them. That's quite a bit of an increase for someone who might be planning their last weekend getaway for the holiday, the last weekend of summer," she said. "Many may not be able to go with that increase. They didn't budget it, it's not something they put in their budget already, so I can see that really impacting a lot of them."

Cooper on Thursday signed an executive order, putting price gouging laws into effect. The law will remain in effect for 45 days, according to the Attorney General's Office.

"If you see suspiciously high gas prices, it could mean that gas stations are taking advantage of their customers," said Attorney General Josh Stein in a statement. "My top priority is protecting North Carolinians- including their wallets. Taking advantage of people during a weather crisis would be unacceptable, and I will hold any offenders accountable."

North Carolinians who see potential price gouging are urged to report it to the Attorney General's Office at NCDOJ.gov.

The Colonial Pipeline, a crucial artery in the nation's fuel supply network, runs from the Houston area to New York harbor and includes more than 5,500 miles of pipeline, most of it underground. It closed in September 2016 after a leak and gas spill in Alabama, leading to days of empty gas station pumps and higher prices in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

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