Pipeline Leak in Alabama Affects Fuel Prices, Environment

A leak in the Colonial Pipeline that delivers fuel for 13 states on the East Coast, first discovered on Sept. 9, 2016, is the cause of higher fuel prices in the area. Bad weather conditions have hampered repair efforts on the pipeline.

Update Sept. 21, 2016: ‘Gas Crisis 2016’ Nears End as Pipeline Bypass Completed

The leak in the Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Houston, Texas to Linden, New York, was noted in rural Shelby County, Alabama, about 30 miles south of Birmingham that has spilled to what amounts to be between 6,000 and 8,000 barrels of oil. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, are investigating the cause of the leak. In the meantime, Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley have declared states of emergency in their respective jurisdictions.

The pipeline has been partially shut down since the leak was discovered, resulting in the shutdown of an important gasoline supply line, not just to Alabama and Georgia, but to a number of states on the East Coast. Authorities are now concerned that not only will gas prices be effected by the yet-to-be-repaired pipeline, but also the availability of fuel in the 13 states supplied by the Colonial Pipeline.

The Environmental Protection Agency ended a Clean Air Act summer requirement on Sept. 14, two days early, in some parts of Georgia and Tennessee in an effort to ease fuel transportation disruption. Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina have waived rules that limit the hours fuel delivery truck drivers can travel as part of that same effort.

More than 500 Colonial Pipeline employees have been on-site at the pipeline leak, Line 1 that’s responsible for the transport of gasoline to the East Coast from refineries on the Gulf Coast. Work on the pipeline, which has yet to be excavated to determine its severity, was only intermittent on Sept. 14 and Sept. 15 due to weather conditions that caused hazardous vapors from the gas spill to hover over the area.

The town of Alabaster, Alabama, located about three miles from the spill is currently determined to be safe from the hazardous vapors, both from gasoline and benzene. The leak, first reported by a mining inspector who noticed gasoline odor on mining property adjacent to the pipeline, has caused spills of gasoline in one of the mine’s retention ponds and has subsequently flowed through a culvert to another pond. Colonial Pipeline estimates it has recovered about 1,300 barrels from the first pond and is yet unsure how much gasoline spilled into the second pond.

Featured Image Credit: Colonial Pipeline Company

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