Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
Over the weekend the Colonial Pipeline was shut down after a ransomware cyberattack. As news about the cyberattack spread, concerns about the shutdown causing a disruption in the supply chain for gas grew leading to drivers scrambling to fuel their vehicles. The panic-buying spree left many stations either without gasoline and forcing others to limit or regulate gas sales.
Monday night the panic-buying made its way to WNC with many stations across Macon and Jackson counties reporting shortages beginning on Monday.
The Colonial Pipeline is a privately owned fuel pipeline stretching 5,500 miles from Texas to New Jersey serving states along the East Coast. In response to the interruption in supply and demand for gas, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued a State of Emergency on Monday, which kickstarted North Carolina’s price gouging law that is now in effect.
“The hackers who breached Colonial Pipeline’s systems have made it harder for hardworking North Carolinians to go about their lives, but I will not allow businesses to take advantage of this incident to charge excessive prices,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “North Carolina’s price gouging law is in effect – please let my office know if businesses or people might be trying to profit off this situation so we can hold them accountable.”
North Carolina’s law against price gouging, or charging too much in times of a crisis, goes into effect when the governor declares a state of emergency. In some cases, businesses and industries that are heavily impacted by the incident causing the state of emergency have a reasonable need to increase prices in order to resupply, but they should disclose these increases and allow people to make informed purchasing decisions. Businesses cannot, however, unreasonably raise the price of goods or services to profit from a state of emergency.
Stations in outlying areas of Macon County saw gas prices rise as much as 30 cents per gallon and many have already sold their limited inventory with no real promise of when they will be able to resupply.
Colonial Pipeline, the company that operates the pipeline, has said that it hopes to restore most operations by the end of the week. The attack, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation said was carried out by an organized crime group called DarkSide, has highlighted the vulnerability of the American energy system. The pipeline provides the Eastern United States with nearly half its transportation fuel.
North Carolinians are urged to report potential price gouging by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint at https://ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint/price-gouging/.