Steady at the pump
Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Local retailers say Troy the sharp rise in gas prices seen throughout Alabama isn’t a problem locally.
A gas line leak in Shelby County has contributed to a sharp rise in gas prices in several southern states, including Alabama. Gov. Robert Bentley said gas prices in parts of the state rose 20 cents over the weekend after the pipeline leak.
The average gas price in Alabama rose by 10 cents in the past five days, jumping from $1.94 on September 15 to $2.04 on September 20 according to gasbuddy.com.
Kimberlee Messer, manager of the Circle K gas station at the corner of U.S. Highway 231 and Henderson Highway (formerly the Kangaroo), said that the pipeline leak hasn’t affected gas prices at her station.
“Troy is a good place,” Messer said. “There’s no change here and our competitor’s prices aren’t up either.”
Messer said the high volume of customers at the station is one reason that prices have remained stable and that she could see how it might effect lower-volume stations. Messer said that she has seen more customers in the past week.
“There are people in a panic,” Messer said. “Especially some of the elderly people. Some people have come in only needing a quarter tank of gas because they think they won’t be able to get any.”
The Circle K’s gas price for unleaded gas on Tuesday at 4 p.m. was $1.89, more than 10 cents under the state average.
Colonial Pipeline announced Saturday that a temporary bypass would be constructed so that the line can be restarted.
The roughly 500-foot section of pipe that will serve as the bypass is now complete, and the company expects that will allow it to restart the main gasoline line, Colonial Pipeline spokesman Steve Baker told The Associated Press.
“(Today’s) restart of the main gasoline line is a key milestone,” Baker said. “However, it will take a few days for the fuel supply chain to fully recover.”
The bypass was needed to move fuel around the leak of its main gasoline pipeline. The leak, which spilled between 252,000 gallons and 336,000 gallons of gasoline into a detention pond, was detected Sept. 9.
The leak has led to some gas shortages and higher prices at the pumps in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Bentley toured Colonial Pipeline’s emergency response center, in a luxury resort hotel about 12 miles from the pipeline breach, and spent much of a news conference Monday praising the company’s response.
“They run this operation very much like we have to run a natural disaster. They have everyone in place, they practice this on a regular basis, they are prepared and they have done a very good job of reacting to this particular instance that has taken place in Shelby County,” Bentley said.
A disaster drill was held coincidentally last year near the scene of the spill, he said, and that helped the company plan and execute a response that included about 700 people so far.
According to a preliminary report, it wasn’t possible to immediately pinpoint the leak, partly because highly flammable benzene and gasoline vapors hung in the air and prevented firefighters, company officials and anyone else from being near the site for more than three days.
State workers discovered the leak when they noticed a strong gasoline odor and sheen on a man-made retention pond, along with dead vegetation nearby, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said in the report.
The report does not identify the cause of the leak. The agency, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is investigating the leak in a section of the pipeline constructed in 1963, it said.
Governors across the South issued executive orders last week to suspend limitations on trucking hours, allowing drivers to stay on the road longer to bring fuel to gas stations.