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Colonial Pipeline slowly returns to deliver gasoline in the US

Colonial Pipeline, operator of an immense oil pipeline victim of a cyberattack last weekend in the United States, resumed the delivery of gasoline in most of its terminals on Thursday, and the situation in the service stations improves, although slowly after a wave of panic among drivers due to a possible lack of fuel.

President Joe Biden hailed the “good news” and urged Americans to remain calm as supplies are restored in the coming days.

Although “we will not see the effects at the gas stations immediately,” there will be a “return to normalcy that begins this week and will continue the next,” Biden told reporters at the White House.

“I know that seeing lines at gas stations without gas can be extremely stressful, but this is a temporary situation. Do not carry more gas than you need. Do not panic,” added the president.

Desperate drivers from Florida to Maryland lined up at gas stations to fill their tanks and other containers, and the demand sent fuel prices skyrocketing.

Following this incident, the price of gasoline at service stations rose above three dollars a gallon (3.8 liters) for the first time since 2014, according to the AAA automotive association.

The normal filling of the gas stations could take “several weeks”, according to Patrick De Hann, analyst of the specialized site GasBuddy.

The company that owns the pipeline reported progress in restoring service.

“Colonial Pipeline made substantial progress in the return to operations of the pipeline network and we can say that product delivery began in most of the markets we serve,” the company said in a statement Thursday.

The 8,800 km pipeline network, the largest in the United States for refined products, serves the entire US East Coast from refineries installed in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to a report by the Bloomberg agency, the company would have paid five million dollars to the hackers, information that contradicts the version of The Washington Post that indicates that it would not have paid to have its systems released.

To alleviate the supply situation, the Biden government granted more flexibility on Sunday for the transport of refined products by road.

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted “a temporary waiver to ensure that there is an adequate supply of gasoline available in the affected areas until normal supply to the region can be restored.”

The EPA measure suspends clean air rules that require urban areas to use fuel with additives that make gasoline less polluting but also more expensive.

This provision will be in force until May 18 and concerns the capital, Washington DC, as well as the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

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