Hurricane Ida Prompts Strategic Petroleum Reserve Release, More

President Biden directs DOE, DOT, EPA, IRS emergency actions
Photograph: Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — As part of the federal Hurricane Ida response effort, President Biden on Sept. 2 directed the Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm “to use all of the tools at her disposal, including using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to keep gas flowing to the pumps.”

The death toll from flooding after the remnants of the hurricane pummeled cities in the East rose to 46 on Sept. 2, reported CNN. Remnants of Ida unleashed flash floods and tornadoes across the Northeast, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Dozens of people have died in Connecticut, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia in the wake of storm flooding. Power outages in some Louisiana parishes could last at least a month, said the report, and residents now face gas shortages and dwindling supplies after Ida made landfall in the state on Aug. 29 , said CNN.

As of early Sept. 2, nearly two-thirds of the gas stations in Baton Rouge (65.8%) and New Orleans (65.2%) were without fuel, according to Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for Boston-based GasBuddy. Nearly 36% of the gas stations statewide are reported as without fuel.

As a precautionary and routine safety measure, following the landfall of Hurricane Ida on Aug. 29, Colonial Pipelinewhich shut down for a week in May over a ransomware attack, disrupting fuel supply in the regiontemporarily shutdown Lines 1 and 2, from Houston to Greensboro, N.C. Lines 3 and 4, which service the northeast from Greensboro to Linden, N.J., continued to operate as normal. The closed lines went back into operation on Aug. 30.

Granholm has authorized the SPR to conduct an exchange with ExxonMobil Baton Rouge to alleviate any logistical issues of moving crude oil within areas affected by Ida to ensure the region has access to fuel as quickly as possible as they continue recovery. The exchange involves a release of 1.5 million barrels of crude oil to ExxonMobil.

In his remarks, the president also said he directed the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to renew an emergency declaration to provide flexibility on hours of service for truck drivers to expedite the delivery of supplies to the affected regions. “The Transportation Department is broadening that emergency declaration to include transportation of gasoline and other types of fuel as well, in addition to medical supplies and food, he said.

He said that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved emergency waivers for Louisiana and Mississippi that will expand the supply of gasoline that can be sold in those states and increase availability at a critical time. The measures include a waiver of the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) requirements in those states to help improve the fuel supply circumstances caused by the hurricane. The waiver begins Aug. 30 and ends Sept. 16.

Also, the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said it will not impose a penalty when dyed diesel fuel is used or sold for use on highways in a number of parishes in Louisiana. This action expands the availability of diesel for use on Louisiana roads at a critical time for response and recovery efforts, the agency said. The waiver is in effect between Aug. 29 and Sept. 15.

“These actions should help reduce the risk of gas shortages and price increases as a result of the hurricane,” Biden said.

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