LAURINBURG — Scotland County drivers could see gasoline prices rise anywhere between five and 20 cents over the coming days following a pipeline leak in Alabama that carries gas to states up and down the east coast.
The Colonial Pipeline Company said it will need to build a bypass line. The company gave no timetable as to when that line would be completed or what path it would take — until then, prices could soar and supplies could run out.
There have already been some spikes in fuel cost around the area. Monday morning gasoline prices for regular unleaded was at $2.10 at the Community Stop gas station on U.S. 401 across from St. Andrews University — by 2 p.m. the price had increased to $2.39, according to Caitlyn Graham, a clerk at Community Stop.
“I have noticed a lot more people than usual coming to fuel up,” Graham said.
The Kangaroo Express gas station on South Main Street ran out of premium gasoline on Monday, but that shortage was not related to the pipeline spill, a store official said.
Jody Parrish of Laurinburg, who was at the gas station on Monday, said he planned to fill up.
“My wife just called me and told I better top off my tank before the prices go up,” he said. “I commute 60 miles for work, so this shortage could really effect me.”
Gov. Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency for North Carolina.
“We are working with state and national officials to make sure North Carolina is not impacted by this leak,” said McCrory in a press release issued Friday evening. “This executive order will help protect our motorists from excessive gas prices and ensure an uninterrupted supply of fuel that is essential for the health, safety and economic well-being of businesses, consumers and visitors in North Carolina.”
Officials believe six states — North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia and Alabama — are all facing possible shortages due to the spill. The Colonial Pipeline runs from Texas to New York and supplies gas to an estimated 50 million people a day on the East Coast. On Sept. 9, a 36-inch pipeline near Birmingham, Alabama began leaking gasoline at least 252,000 gallons into a nearby pond. The pipeline was shut down after the leak was discovered.
The pipeline company has two main lines and said Monday that it is shipping “significant volumes” on the second of the two lines to mitigate the impact of the interruption on the other line. Colonial Pipeline also said it was working “around the clock” to repair the break and supplies have either been delivered or are on their way to locations in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
State officials are reminding North Carolina residents that there is a price gouging law in effect. Price gouging is the act of charging excessive prices in a time of crisis. As of 11 a.m. on Monday, more than 400 consumers had filed complaints of potential gas price gouging to the state’s Consumer Protection Division.
“Consumers are our eyes and ears on the ground and we want to know if you spot potential gas price gouging,” state Attorney General Roy Cooper said.
If you plan to file a report, the AG’s office said it is helpful to provide receipts of purchased gasoline or photos of gas station price signs. The Consumer Protection Division then follows up on complaints to determine if the law has been violated.
Reach Nolan Gilmour at 910-276-2311.