What's happening at US gas stations

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 7:26 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021
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8:01 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

North Carolina governor says panic buying caused the gas supply problem

From CNN’s Keith Allen

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper CNN

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper told CNN Wednesday that panic buying caused a gas supply problem in his state.

With an estimated 70% of Charlotte’s gas stations out of fuel, and price gouging complaints piling up across the state, Cooper told CNN's Jake Tapper that they are working on multiple fronts to mitigate the problems at-hand.

“I want this gas supply problem fixed as quickly as possible, and we are working with the local and federal officials, and the company to get that done. I have declared a state of emergency which would allow the transportation waivers for more trucks and heavier trucks to come into the state to bring gas, and we have a waiver from the EPA to increase the amount of fuel coming in,” Cooper said.

“I will tell you that this should not be a gas supply problem, but panic buying has made it a fact,” the governor continued.

“What we have to do though is to get the people calmed down, and to make sure that we get this pipeline up and running as quickly as possible. And to make sure that we have other avenues to get the gas to stations as quickly as possible,” Cooper said.

Contrary to comments made by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp earlier in the day, Cooper said he’s had positive and constructive dialogue with the Biden administration as the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack and subsequent fuel shortage unfolded.

“I had a good conversation with the Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm who told me they were working from the federal level to make sure this pipeline is turned back on as quickly as possible,” Cooper said.

“I got a call right away, and the Biden administration jumped on this quickly with me, and I understand with other state governors across the southeast. I think that this company is going to be able to get things back on track here in the next couple of days. But it does say that we have work to do with cybersecurity, particularly protecting critical infrastructure, and I think that the Biden administration believes that, and is working on that both in the short term and the long term,” he said.

Watch more:

7:26 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021

Hackers demanded nearly $5 million from Colonial Pipeline

From CNN's Geneva Sands and Josh Campbell

Colonial Pipeline paid the ransomware group that carried out a crippling cyberattack, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN on Thursday. 

The group, previously identified as DarkSide, demanded nearly $5 million, two other sources familiar with the incident said. The sources CNN spoke to Thursday did not say how much the company paid. Bloomberg first reported the ransom payment. 

CNN was previously told by multiple sources that Colonial Pipeline had not yet paid the ransom, but two sources said on Thursday that the company did pay as it sought to retrieve the stolen information. It is not clear when the payment was made. 

The fact that the critical infrastructure company paid the ransom appears not to have been widely shared, despite federal entities working with the pipeline company to build back its networks following the ransomware attack.

Brandon Wales, the acting director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Administration (CISA), said on Thursday that he has "no knowledge of whether a ransom was paid, how much was paid, if it was paid, when it was paid."

President Biden declined to comment when asked on Thursday whether Colonial Pipeline had paid the ransom.

And government officials said they did not know if a ransom had been paid during briefings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

Colonial Pipeline has also repeatedly declined to comment on the ransom payment. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Colonial Pipeline was not likely to pay a ransom. The story has been updated to reflect new reporting that they did pay and clarify the data recovery process.


5:35 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Colonial Pipeline restarts pipeline operations

From CNN's DJ Judd

Colonial Pipeline has initiated a restart of its pipeline operations after a ransomware attack forced one of the nation’s largest oil transporters to shut down, exposing vulnerabilities in America’s infrastructure and sparking gas panic buying across the southeast.

Pipeline operations restarted about 5 p.m. ET, the company said in a statement.

"Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal. Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal," the company said.

Colonial first announced it was the victim of a ransomware cyber-attack late last week, prompting a shutdown of operations into Wednesday. An interagency working group, with the Energy Department serving as lead agency, was assembled over the weekend, and officials assessed “multiple contingencies” in the event of a prolonged shutdown and decreased fuel supplies nationwide. 

In a tweet Wednesday, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm applauded the news, writing, “We just got off the phone with #ColonialPipeline CEO. They are restarting pipeline operations today at ~5pm. More soon.”

President Biden previewed the decision in remarks Wednesday, telling reporters, “We have been very, very close contact with Colonial Pipeline, which is the one area you're talking about, where that's one of the reasons that gas the prices are going up. And I think you're gonna hear some good news in the next 24 hours. And I think we'll be getting that under control."

4:56 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

FEMA is "frequently" communicating with states impacted by Colonial Pipeline shutdown

From CNN's Liz Stark

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been “frequently” communicating with states impacted by the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, says the agency’s new administrator Deanne Criswell. 

In an interview clip released by CBS News Wednesday, Criswell is asked whether FEMA has had conversations with government agencies about potential disaster relief if the fuel shortages continue. 

Criswell, who was sworn in last month as the head of FEMA, said the agency has “been in contact with all of our states that have been impacted by this, communicating with them frequently to see if there are any issues."

“Right now, there’s no unmet needs that they need FEMA’s assistance for,” she said. “But you know be assured that we will continue to communicate with them and be able to support as needed.”

This comes as the Biden administration officials are urging Americans not to hoard gasoline as a growing number of gas stations along the East Coast run out of fuel in the wake of a surge in demand following a ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline.

5:23 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Biden says he thinks there will be "some good news in the next 24 hours" on the gas shortages

From CNN's DJ Judd


President Biden told reporters Wednesday that there will be "some good news in the next 24 hours,” regarding the resumption of operations for Colonial Pipeline.

“We have been very, very close contact with Colonial Pipeline, which is the one area you're talking about, where that's one of the reasons that gas the prices are going up. And I think you're gonna hear some good news in the next 24 hours. And I think we'll be getting that under control,” Biden said Wednesday.

“In the meantime, we’ve made it easier for us to have lifted some of the restrictions on the transportation of fuel, as well as access to the United States military, providing fuel and with vehicles to get it there were places where it's badly needed,” he added.

On Tuesday, the White House and US Department of Transportation determined that states with previous declarations of “major disaster” issued by Biden in the last 120 days would be allowed to use highways to transport overweight loads of gasoline and other fuels, in an effort to address outages caused by panic buying in response to the Colonial Pipeline hack. 

Biden also reiterated the need for more workforce training in cybersecurity to prevent future attacks.

Watch more:

4:53 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Police in one Georgia city are looking for a suspect they say stole gas from a U-Haul store

From CNN’s Paul Murphy 

Griffin Police Department
Griffin Police Department

Police in Griffin, Georgia, are asking for the public's help in identifying the suspect that they said drilled holes into the tank of a parked U-Haul truck and stole gas from it.

The alleged theft comes as some gas stations in the Southeast are running out of gas. This is largely being driven by panic-buying in the aftermath of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown.  

Griffin Police spokesperson Laura Littlejohn told CNN that the incident occurred a U-Haul store in the 1400 block of Bowling Lane around 9:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday.   

Littlejohn said that the suspect stole five gallons of gas, leaving the remaining 35 to 40 gallons in the tank spilling out on the ground. The Fire Department cleaned up the spill, she said.   

Surveillance cameras caught the vehicle, a 1980 to 1986 red Ford F series truck, and the driver. Police are now asking the public for help identifying the suspect.  

4:12 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Shipping companies and USPS won't say whether gas shortage in Southeast is affecting operations

From CNN’s Paul Murphy 

Major shipping companies – FedEx, UPS and Amazon – and the US Postal Service are refusing to say whether gas shortages are complicating their operations in the Southeast.  

Earlier this week, major airlines announced they were temporarily changing their operations to conserve fuel as complications from the Colonial Pipeline continue to ripple out. The shipping industry isn't being as transparent about whether or not they are being affected by the gas shortage, which is being driven by consumers panic buying.

"We’re currently assessing the situation," USPS spokesperson Kim Frum told CNN. Frum declined to say whether gas shortages were hampering the organization's efforts to deliver mail.  

CNN obtained a photo from an eyewitness in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that showed a line of USPS trucks queueing for gas. 

FedEx spokesperson Davina Cole told CNN that the company utilizes onsite fuel storage, "at a number of locations" and that they are, "communicating frequently with common carriers and mobile fuel vendors to monitor and adapt to potential fuel delivery challenges." 

Cole did not respond to a follow inquiry that again asked whether or not the company had to alter their operations as a result of the gas shortage.

UPS and Amazon did not return repeated inquiries sent by CNN.  

4:11 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Attorneys general for the Carolinas have received nearly 1,000 price gouging complaints

From CNN’s Paul Murphy

Vehicles line up to get fuel at a Sunoco gas station in Sumter, South Carolina on Tuesday, May 11. 
Vehicles line up to get fuel at a Sunoco gas station in Sumter, South Carolina on Tuesday, May 11.  Micah Green/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Spokespersons for the South and North Carolina Attorneys General say they've received almost 1,000 reports of price gouging amid the gas shortage that's being driven by panic buying. 

In the last 24 hours, North Carolina attorney general spokesperson Laura Brewer says they've received 392 complaints of price gouging relating to the gas shortage. The law price gouging law went into effect after Gov. Roy Cooper announced a statement of emergency on Tuesday.

In South Carolina, Robert Kittle, spokesperson for the attorney general, says they've received more than 550 reports in the last few days. 

Brewer said that the North Carolina attorney general's office is taking a close look at the reports but no official enforcement action has been taken yet.  

South Carolina's attorney general will sort through any reports and turn any that fit the definition of price gouging to local law enforcement to investigate, Kittle said. The findings of the investigation will then be sent back to the attorney general who decides whether to prosecute.  

The public can report price gouging in North Carolina by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint online. The public can report price gouging in South Carolina by calling 803-737-3953 or sending an by email.

3:51 p.m. ET, May 12, 2021

Oil industry calls on Biden to waive Jones Act, warns against gas rationing

From CNN's Matt Egan

A customer fills up his car and gas container with fuel at the Circle K in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Wednesday.
A customer fills up his car and gas container with fuel at the Circle K in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Wednesday. Robert Willett/The News & Observer/AP

Oil industry executives urged the White House on Wednesday to grant waivers that would allow foreign ships to send fuel to the East Coast to meet skyrocketing demand following the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline.

During a press call organized by the American Petroleum Institute, executives called on President Joe Biden to consider waiving the Jones Act, which requires ships sailing between US ports to be American flagged and built in the United States. 

“We urge the administration to initiate a waiver of the Jones Act immediately to get more product on the Eastern Seaboard,” said Rob Underwood, president of the Energy Marketers of America.

Susan Grissom, chief industry analyst at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, said that granting temporary Jones Act waivers is “where President Biden’s team can make a big difference.”

“While it may feel like a shortage, the United States isn’t running out of gasoline,” Grissom said. 

The supply problems have been exacerbated by a shortage of truck drivers that emerged in the weeks prior to the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, oil executives acknowledged.

“This issue is growing exponentially due to the fact we have a driver shortage,” said Ryan Streblow, interim president of the National Tank Truck Carriers. “If we had all the drivers we needed, this would be less of an issue.”

But industry executives pushed back Wednesday on calls to ration fuel in response to panic-buying during the Colonial shutdown.

“Once rationing occurs, more panic buying ensues,” Ryan McNutt, the CEO of the Society of Independent Gasoline Markets of America, said during a press call. “It actually has the opposite effect of what is intended.” 

Instead of imposing restrictions, industry executives urged Americans to be reasonable, only buy the amount of fuel needed and refrain from filling up containers with gasoline.

Jeff Lenard, an executive at the National Association of Convenience Stores which represents gasoline sellers, blamed some of the irrational behavior on concern triggered by emergency orders imposed by various governors to address supply constraints.

“When you hear 'states of emergency' it may inspire panic,” Lenard said. “They are meant to repair the system, not to cause alarm.”