Local News

Effects of pipeline blast just beginning to reach NC

Posted November 2, 2016 6:54 p.m. EDT
Updated November 2, 2016 7:10 p.m. EDT

— A fire sparked by a huge explosion on a major gasoline pipeline continued burning Wednesday, two days after the fatal blast killed one person in Alabama. Nearly 48 hours after the blast, the effects of the breach are just beginning to reach North Carolina.

The average price of gas in North Carolina remained steady at $2.17 a gallon, but some people are not taking a risk.

"I don't want to be searching like I was last time," Evan Mullinix said.

In September, the Colonial Pipeline leaked 252,000 to 336,000 gallons of gasoline and led to dry fuel pumps and price spikes in several Southern states — for days, in some cases.

"I had to miss work last time. I wasn't able to get in," Mullinix said.

Steve Byers, owner of a Grocery Boy Junior, said he has plenty of gas for drivers.

"Hopefully it won't get out here where I have to referee at the pumps like last time," he said.

On Tuesday, Gov. Pat McCrory urged drivers not to panic.

"We're walking a fine line in providing accurate information and making sure that information doesn't put an undue burden on the natural supply and demand issues of gas," he said.

North Carolina Republicans urged their supporters to vote early and avoid any gas-related disruptions on Election Day, but Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal urged people to stick with normal fuel usage rather than stocking up and causing a spike in demand.

Meanwhile, U.S. House Democrats asked for an investigation of Colonial Pipeline. Five ranking members of panels dealing with energy, transportation, infrastructure, pipelines and investigations released a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox seeking the review.

The House members cited the deadly explosion earlier this week and a large spill in September just a few miles away. The company said the pipeline exploded as a nine-person crew was attempting to make a temporary repair that would allow for a permanent repair to the area where the spill occurred.

The letter also mentioned smaller spills in 2015 in North Carolina and Virginia, where several thousand gallons of petroleum product spilled.

A statement by Colonial said it takes accidents seriously and already is cooperating with investigators.

"We have robust system integrity, inspection and maintenance programs that meet or exceed all federal regulatory requirements," the statement said.

The damaged pipeline, which runs from the Gulf Coast to New York City, provides almost 40 percent of the region's gasoline and usually operates at or near full capacity. Combined with a nearby pipeline for diesel and aviation fuel, the two lines carry more than 2 million barrels of fuel daily.