Pipeline shutdown, panic leave Georgia gas stations without fuel

Gov. Brian Kemp's message to Georgians regarding fuel supply is simple: don't panic.

It's perhaps, easier said than done, as residents see some filling up whatever containers they can with fuel and others going as far as stealing it. But Kemp said hoarding at this point, is unnecessary with no indication the pipeline shutdown will be long-term.

"There is no need to fill up every five-gallon can you have," Kemp said.

The governor said he has not been in direct contact with representatives for Colonial Pipeline and knows little of the status of the federal investigation, but emphasized he will continue to keep Georgians informed if the pipeline shutdown seems like it may extend beyond the short-term. 

Kemp also announced measures the state is taking to address supply issues. Kemp said the Environmental Protection Agency approved a waiver to use a stored supply of winter fuel mix. He said the stored fuel is not enough to completely address the demand problems but will help some gas stations meet their needs. The waiver comes after Kemp signed an executive order to suspend the gas sales tax and increased weight limits for trucks transporting fuel. 

Kemp said state vehicles were not in dire need of refueling and he had not received pleas from school districts needing to refuel their buses. 

The Georgia Consumer Affairs Protection Division has set up a hotline if you experience what you believe you've experienced price gouging at the pump.

Violators of Georgia's price gouging statutes may be fined up to $5,000 per violation. Consumers can report suspected price gouging by completing the online complaint form on CPD'S website consumer.ga.gov.

Under state law, the governor can declare a state of emergency and prohibit price gouging on necessities like fuel — which he has. 

That means, it is now illegal for any gas stations to raise the price of gas higher than what it was just before the governor declared a state of emergency unless they raise it because of an increase in the cost to the station.

Georgians can call either 404-651-8600 or toll-free at 1-800-869-1123 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.

Georgians panic-buy gas

Gas stations across Georgia and the rest of the Southeast have reported running out of fuel after panicking drivers have run to the pump to gas up during a shutdown of a major pipeline.

Colonial Pipeline, the biggest fuel pipeline in the U.S., delivering about 45% of what is consumed on the East Coast, was hit on Friday with a cyberattack by hackers who lock up computer systems and demand a ransom to release them. 

As of Wednesday morning,  Gasbuddy, an app that tracks cheap gas, reported over 15% of gas stations in Georgia and nearly 60% of gas stations in metro Atlanta are without gasoline due to panic buying. In all, more than 1,000 gas stations in the Southeast reported running out of fuel.

Tuesday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp temporarily suspended sales taxes on motor fuels to offset the increased prices throughout the state, saying he wanted to provide some relief to Georgians.

SEE MORE: Cherokee County suspends some bus services due to gas shortage

"It will probably help level the price at the pump off for a little while," Kemp said at a press conference at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in Chamblee.

Kemp urged people not to hoard gasoline, saying he expected quick relief from the supply crunch.

Even still, many panicked drivers are worried about what impact the shutdown could have.

RELATED: State providing support of consumers as fuel pipeline shutdown continues

"My wife went out last night because she was concerned the prices were going to go up, I said, ‘Hey you know don’t worry about it,’ you know, but I had no idea they were gonna jump this high," driver Ernest Slaughter said. "I had no idea it was going to be like this."

Gas prices in Georgia were averaging $2.87 a gallon Tuesday, according to AAA. That’s an 11-cent jump since Monday and a 16-cent jump since last week.

A large part of the pipeline resumed operations manually late Monday, and Colonial anticipates restarting most of its operations by the end of the week.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.