A slew of issues including a ransomware attack that shut down a major fuel pipeline servicing the nation’s East Coast may soon disrupt the price and supply of gas in Florida.
Yet despite the looming disruption, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Monday told Floridians not to “panic.”
In a video posted to Twitter, she discouraged Floridians from hoarding gas, buying fuel in a panic and forming long lines around the pump.
Fried said she’s in talks with the EPA, U.S. Department of Energy and the petroleum industry over the shortages.
“In general, Floridians may expect some fuel pricing and sales issues in the coming days due to several factors,” Fried said in a press release. “These include the temporary shutdown of a major U.S. fuel pipeline due to a cyberattack, causing fuel to be trucked in to certain regions, as well as a shortage of truck drivers currently affecting both the fuel industry and agriculture industry.”
The pipeline, operated by Colonial Pipeline, shut down Saturday after a ransomware attack perpetrated by an international organized crime group.
The company provides nearly 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, sparking concern among elected officials and residents alike. The situation, meanwhile, is raising concerns in North Florida where gas lines are beginning to form.
“The longer the pipeline is down, the greater the threat of rising gas prices,” said Mark Jenkins, AAA Florida spokesperson. “If operations are restored on Monday, drivers may see very little to no impact at the pump. A lengthy downtime, like a week, would be a different story.”
Ransomware attacks are typically executed by hackers who compromise a company’s data and demand payment to restore it.
President Joe Biden was briefed on the situation Saturday and the federal government is working with the company to resume operations and avoid disruptions, the White House said. The hack prompted a national declaration of emergency, with states like North Carolina following suit.
The national order, in place until at least June 8, lifts regulations on transporting fuel on alternative routes, allowing more gas to more across state lines by truck in Southern states
As of Monday afternoon, all four of Colonial’s main lines remained offline.
The FBI has attributed the hack as a ransomware attack from Darkside, a Russian online criminal operation.
“The DarkSide ransomware is responsible for the compromise of the Colonial Pipeline networks,” reads an FBI statement. “We continue to work with the company and our government partners on the investigation.”