Northam declares state of emergency in Virginia after ransomware attack on gas pipeline

Lines wrap around a Fairfax County, Virginia, Costco gas station as residents try to fill up before a possible gas shortage. (Courtesy NBC Washington)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Tuesday to keep the Commonwealth’s gas supplies from being disrupted in the wake of the ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline.

“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,” Northam said.

It also provides increased flexibility and funding for state and local governments to ensure adequate fuel supply, according to a release.

The full text of the governor’s declaration — Executive Order Seventy-Eight — is online.

The Colonial Pipeline delivers about 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast.


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In Virginia and four states also served by Colonial Pipeline — Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina  — demand was up by a collective 40.1%, GasBuddy said, according to CNN.

In Virginia, 7.5% of the commonwealth’s 3,880 gas stations reported running out of fuel, according to GasBuddy.

Experts said the shortages were primarily driven by panic buying.

“A lot of that is because they’re selling three or four times as much gasoline that they normally sell in a given day, because people do panic,” said Tom Kloza, a veteran analyst with S&P’s Oil Price Information Service. “It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Citgo’s Fairfax, Virginia, terminal ran out of premium grade reformulated gasoline and its Richmond terminal was out of unleaded regular, according to the American Automobile Association, citing a shipper bulletin.

To help alleviate potential shortages, the Environmental Protection Agency waved some fuel quality requirements on an emergency basis in parts of D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

In a tweet, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said, “Since Saturday morning, when we activated a statewide response, Maryland has been closely coordinating with the federal administration and local jurisdictions.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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<p>Gas customers swarm a COSTCO gas station amid fears of a gas shortage in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, May 11, 2021. The line at the facility extended around the entire building.</p>
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

<p>Several fuel pumps were out of premium gasoline in addition to limiting the fill up of portable containers at this Costco Warehouse fuel station, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Ridgeland, Miss. State officials warn that any shortages seen at individual gas stations are a result of people &#8220;panic buying&#8221;, not the Colonial Pipeline shutdown itself, and call on residents to limit unnecessary travel and only buy as much gasoline as they need.</p>
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

gas station line
People line up for gas at a Sunoco on westbound Lee Highway in Arlington, Virginia, on May 12, 2021. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

<p>The line of people filling up their vehicles was longer than usual at this Sam&#8217;s Club in Madison, Miss., Tuesday, May 11, 2021. State officials warn that any shortages seen at individual gas stations are a result of people &#8220;panic buying&#8221;, not the Colonial Pipeline shutdown itself, and call on residents to limit unnecessary travel and only buy as much gasoline as they need.</p>
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

A U.S. Route 50 Shell station ran out of gas ahead of morning rush hour on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Drivers line up for gas at a Costco off Route 29 in Northern Virginia early on May 12, 2021. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

<p>Safety cones block access to the fuel pumps at this closed Kroger fuel station, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Jackson, Miss. State officials warned Tuesday that any shortages seen at individual gas stations are a result of people &#8220;panic buying&#8221;, not the Colonial Pipeline shutdown itself, and call on residents to limit unnecessary travel and only buy as much gasoline as they need.</p>
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Cars lined up at an Exxon in Kentlands area/Gaithersburg on May 12, 2021.

Drivers getting gas at an Exxon station in Kentlands area/Gaithersburg on May 12, 2021.

(WTOP/Steve Dresner)
https://twitter.com/mdobama/status/1392269144872075266
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<p>Gas customers swarm a COSTCO gas station amid fears of a gas shortage in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, May 11, 2021. The line at the facility extended around the entire building.</p>
<p>Several fuel pumps were out of premium gasoline in addition to limiting the fill up of portable containers at this Costco Warehouse fuel station, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Ridgeland, Miss. State officials warn that any shortages seen at individual gas stations are a result of people &#8220;panic buying&#8221;, not the Colonial Pipeline shutdown itself, and call on residents to limit unnecessary travel and only buy as much gasoline as they need.</p>
gas station line
<p>The line of people filling up their vehicles was longer than usual at this Sam&#8217;s Club in Madison, Miss., Tuesday, May 11, 2021. State officials warn that any shortages seen at individual gas stations are a result of people &#8220;panic buying&#8221;, not the Colonial Pipeline shutdown itself, and call on residents to limit unnecessary travel and only buy as much gasoline as they need.</p>
<p>Safety cones block access to the fuel pumps at this closed Kroger fuel station, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Jackson, Miss. State officials warned Tuesday that any shortages seen at individual gas stations are a result of people &#8220;panic buying&#8221;, not the Colonial Pipeline shutdown itself, and call on residents to limit unnecessary travel and only buy as much gasoline as they need.</p>

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