At gas stations around Fauquier County, one of two scenerios was playing out Tuesday night: The station was packed, with three or more cars waiting at each pump, or the gas station was deserted because it had already run out of gasoline.
The Wi-Not-Stop in Bealeton was still offering diesel gas at 8 p.m. “We ran out of regular at 6:45 and we were out of premium at about 4,” said the attendant.
The 7-11 on the corner of Route 28 and U.S. 17 had red plastic bags covering its pump handles, a signal for drivers to look elsewhere.
The Sheetz and the Exxon in Bealeton were still doing business, as were several stations on U.S. 29 in Opal. But the Mapco a few hundred yards down the road was deserted. Stories reported from elsewhere in the county were the same. The Exxon in Warrenton and the mini-mart in Morrisville were out of gas. One Prius driver at the Sheetz in Bealeton said that some customers were filling up three or more Jerry cans with fuel after they filled their tanks.
News outlets across the state reported the same: long lines and shuttered stations.
The run on gas stations coincides with state and federal actions to prevent a shortage of fuel following the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline system. The network supplies many fuel retailers in Virginia; its computer systems were the subject of a ransomware attack on May 7, causing a temporary shutdown.
Gov. Ralph Northam today signed Executive Order 78 declaring a state of emergency in Virginia to address gasoline supply disruptions throughout the Commonwealth.
A press release from the governor’s office said that the governor’s emergency declaration allows state agencies to issue emergency fuel waivers. Executive Order 78 also provides increased flexibility and funding for state and local governments to ensure adequate fuel supply. It temporarily loosens the state’s regulations to make it easier to get fuel to where it needs to go.
“This emergency declaration will help the commonwealth prepare for any potential supply shortages and ensure Virginia motorists have access to fuel as we respond to this evolving situation,” said Northam.
Earlier today, EPA Administrator Michael Regan issued an emergency fuel waiver to help alleviate fuel shortages in Virginia and other states whose supply of reformulated gasoline has been impacted by the pipeline shutdown. This waiver will continue through May 18.
A May 11 press release from the EPA said, “As a result of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, Administrator Regan determined that extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstances exist and has granted a temporary waiver to help ensure that an adequate supply of gasoline is available in the affected areas until normal supply to the region can be restored.
“… EPA and DOE are continuing to actively monitor the fuel supply situation resulting from the Colonial Pipeline shutdown and considering additional measures to alleviate the impact.”