Biden Admin Official Says Pipeline Is Best Option

Oil & Gas

During a White House press conference Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said that she hopes Colonial Pipeline will be able to restore operation by week’s end.

In a response to a reporter’s question about the feasibility of shipping fuel via rail cars to areas of the Southeast grappling with tight fuel supplies while the pipeline is offline, Granholm pointed out the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is exploring the option. However, she added that the DOT’s analysis may show that using rail cars to deliver fuel from U.S.-flagged and U.S.-crewed vessels in deepwater ports – in compliance with the federal Jones Act – may not be a suitable approach.

“These … are not easy solutions because there may or may not be the right rail cars, there may … or may not be the deep-water ports available for the Jones Act to be able to respond,” Granholm told reporters.

The Cabinet secretary added that the Biden administration has worked to facilitate fuel deliveries by truck. She pointed out the DOT on Sunday granted an “‘hours of service’” waiver to provide truck drivers in 17 states and the District of Columbia greater flexibility in transporting gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. Moreover, she said the DOT’s Federal Rail Administration is “‘working to enlist rail operators’” to transport fuel to and from inland ports.

“So this particular area of the country there – this is why we have doubled down on ensuring that there’s an ability to truck … gas in,” Granholm said. “But it’s – the pipe is the best way to go. And so that’s why, hopefully, this company, Colonial, will, in fact, be able to restore operations by the end of the week as they have said.”

Granholm pointed out Tuesday that approximately 70% of the fuel supply shortfall is in the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, and southern Virginia. Colonial has also told federal officials it expects to have a better idea of a pipeline restart timeline by late Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, also present at Tuesday’s press conference, observed that his agency has been collaborating with DOT to be ready to act on “‘any request for a Jones Act waiver to be made to us, to allow a foreign-flag vessel to deliver fuel should that need arise.’”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday signaled the Biden administration is receptive to Jones Act waivers.

To contact the author, email mveazey@rigzone.com. To read the full transcript of Tuesday’s press conference, visit the White House website.

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