Biden administration lifts fuel waiver rules amid fuel shortages

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On Tuesday, the Biden administration lifted some environmental regulations governing the sale of gasoline in three states and the nation's capital as the Colonial Pipeline shutdown stretched into its fourth day, causing fuel shortages along the east coast.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it was waiving volatile requirements in Washington, D.C. until 18 May 18 for gasoline in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.The move could help bring more fuel in the area, which is normally well supplied by the Colonial Pipeline system, a major US highway for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

I have determined that there is an 'extreme and unrelated fuel supply circumstance' that would prevent the distribution of an adequate supply of compliant gasoline to consumers, said EPA Administrator Michael Regan in a letter to local leaders describing the move.

Colonial Pipeline Co. halted operations May 7 after hackers stole almost 100 gigabytes of data and locked the company's computers in a Ransomware attack that FBI attributed to the DarkSide hacking ring.The company has announced that the pipeline will be substantially back in use by the end of the week.

However, filling stations from Florida to Virginia have sold out of gasoline as supplies dwindle and panic buying sets in.

Tuesday's order permits the sale of conventional gasoline in areas where gas is reformulated to the original form.It also allows the selling of gasoline that doesn't meet requirements meant to help combat smog in certain areas.The order applies to terminal operators and owners, as well as distributors and carriers of fuel.After the waiver lapses May 18, fuel manufactures would be prevented from producing or importing gasoline that doesn't meet current volatility standards, though fuel in the distribution system can still be sold until it is depleted, said the EPA.

The move gives retailers the flexibility to market gasoline that could be available despite the Colonial Pipeline shutdown.

Fuel waivers, normally used to stop supply disruptions after hurricanes and other disasters, could encourage refiners to produce cheaper, more volatile gasoline that is normally stopped from selling in summer months.However, it’s unclear how much help they would have now, without a major pipeline to ferry fuels to markets up and down the Atlantic Seaboard.Another benefit could come after the Colonial Pipeline reopens by allowing refiners and blenders to offer more varieties of fuel for regions short on gasoline.

Fuel waivers are one of several measures President Joe Biden can take to limit the effects from the pipeline shutdown.His administration issued an order on Sunday extending the amount of time truck drivers can spend behind the wheel when transporting fuel across 17 states and the District of Columbia.

The administration could also opt to suspend the shipping requirements under the 101 year Jones Act to permit foreign tankers to transport gasoline and diesel to eastern ports.

'We are evaluating supply shortages in parts of the Southeast and are monitoring all action that President Jen Psaki could take to mitigate the impact as much as possible, said White House Press Secretary Jen D. Campbell in a statement on Monday night.'The president has directed agencies across the federal government to bring their resources to bear to help control shortages where they may occur.

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