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.


More Coverage:


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.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up