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Spot gas outages in Phenix City; Georgia governor signs order prohibiting gouging

The Circle K on the northbound side of Veterans Parkway in the 1500 block was out of gas on Sunday afternoon, but was selling fuel once again Monday morning.
The Circle K on the northbound side of Veterans Parkway in the 1500 block was out of gas on Sunday afternoon, but was selling fuel once again Monday morning. chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com

Areas of Phenix City were experiencing spot gasoline outages Monday morning, although Columbus appeared to be weathering much better the supply shortage caused by the Colonial Pipeline rupture in Alabama.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, meanwhile, signed an order prohibiting convenience stores and gas stations across the Peach State from gouging consumers as pipeline repairs continue.

The most notable outage locally was the Circle K store fronting the Walmart Supercenter in Phenix City. Around mid-morning, all of the pump handles had yellow bags covering them. An employee inside said she didn’t know when the station off U.S. Highway 280/431 would be receiving a supply of fuel. “They didn’t give us no time,” she said.

Nearby, a Zelmo’s Zip In and Chevron Food Market outlet was pumping gas, however, with the price there $2 per gallon.

Meanwhile, a Country Market in Smiths Station and a Castle Fuels store in north Phenix City — both on Old Opelika Road — had bags over their pump handles. Across from the Castle outlet, a Freedom Fuels Marathon station was busy, with gas selling for $1.99 a gallon.

In Columbus, the shortage didn’t appear to be having a major effect. A Circle K store on Veterans Parkway downtown was pumping again after running out of fuel the day before. Off Whitesville Road, in the Bradley Park area, another Circle K also was doing brisk business. An employee said the store had run out of supplies previously, then restocked, but was “getting low” once again.

Along the Veterans Parkway corridor of Columbus, a scan of stores found no outages. The highest prices spotted were $2.15 per gallon of regular unleaded at a Mike’s Market at the corner of Veterans and Whitesville, while a Shell station downtown had regular listed on its sign for $2.29 per gallon.

Deal, in his order, reiterated a state law that prohibits price gouging during various events — including hurricanes and evacuations — that disrupt gas supplies, particularly when the pricing is “detrimental to social and economic welfare” of Georgia citizens.

“There have been recent reports that wholesale and retail gas prices have substantially increased in some markets,” Deal said in a statement Monday. “In order to remedy this, I've issued an executive order reiterating the state law prohibiting price gouging. In addition to this, I’ve sought and received a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as lifted operating regulations for commercial truck drivers hauling motor fuel. I urge the public to maintain regular consumption levels and travel schedules in order to reduce further interruption in fuel supply.”

In essence, the governor was asking motorists to not panic and swamp gas stations to top off their vehicle tanks. People should just purchase gas as they normally would, allowing stores and stations to be resupplied as normally as possible.

Gary Black, commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Agriculture, also noted reports of gas shortages in the Atlanta area and said that state officials are working to alleviate the situation by relaxing “certain regulations in an attempt to open several avenues to help resupply” stations, particularly those in the expansive Atlanta metro area.

“As of Monday morning, it appears that the situation is starting to improve,” Black said. “However, it will take time for the gas supply to return to normal. We reiterate the governor’s advisement to the public to maintain regular consumption levels and travel schedules in order to reduce further interruption to the fuel supply.”

Anyone with concerns about gas prices or gouging should contact the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs at 800-869-1123 or www.consumer.ga.gov.

Colonial Pipeline, which found a rupture Sept. 9 near Birmingham, Ala., typically moves more than 100 million gallons of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel each day to cities and markets between Houston and New York City, according to AAA. Its 5,500-mile underground pipeline supplies more than 50 million people.

There have been reports of shortages in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas. Media reports indicate crews are working to bypass the ruptured portion of the pipeline, with the possibility that the work could be completed sometime this week.

In the meantime, prices have spiked in portions of the Southeast, with gas being diverted from other sources to keep supplies flowing as normally as possible. Georgia prices have jumped an average of 16 cents per gallon from last week, said AAA, while they are up at least 10 cents a gallon in Tennessee.

AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said prices will likely continue to tick higher until the Colonial Pipeline is operating again, then “should quickly begin to decline.” The current AAA average in Georgia is just under $2.32 per gallon for regular unleaded.

“Motorists are encouraged to follow their normal driving habits and to not draw abnormally large amounts of gasoline from the pump,” Jenkins said.

The current average for regular in the Columbus market is just over $2.05 per gallon, according to AAA, which is up just 3 cents per gallon from a week ago. A year ago, the Columbus price was averaging just over $2.08 per gallon.

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