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Running dry: gas guzzled across Forsyth after pipeline breach
gas sept 20

What can you do?

Report price gouging at the fuel pump to Georgia Consumer Protection.

Forsyth County drivers are feeling the crunch of an ongoing gas shortage, and it appears guzzles may stay dry for at least the rest of the week.

Since a pipeline ruptured earlier this month in Alabama, leaking at least 250,000 gallons of oil, residents in Georgia and surrounding states have dealt with gas shortages and increased prices.

Sam Budhani, owner of Leon’s Food Market on Matt Highway in west Forsyth, said the struggle is far from over.

“I spoke to my [driver] this morning, and they said it looks like, before it eases, it may take two more weeks,” Budhani said on Monday.

That prediction may be shortened after auto club AAA announced Tuesday that a bypass segment of the pipeline is expected to open Wednesday, once structural integrity tests are completed.

Once the line is restarted, it may take a few days for supplies to return to normal in the southeast state “hit hardest by the partial closure of the pipeline,” said Garrett Townsend, Georgia AAA spokesman in a news release. “Motorists may continue to see spotty outages this week.”

Until supplies settle back to normal, officials are taking measures to help Georgians.

Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order Monday declaring a state of emergency in Georgia and banning gas price gouging.

“There have been recent reports that wholesale and retail gas prices have substantially increased in some markets,” Deal said in a news release. “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.”

According to the Georgia Department of Law Consumer Protection Unit, price gouging can result in up to $5,000 in fines per violation.

The statute prohibits retailers from raising prices on goods acquired before the declaration. Prices for goods acquired after the declaration may only be raised “in an amount which accurately reflects any increase in the cost of the goods to the retailer” and/or the cost of transporting the goods.

What happened?

Between 252,000 gallons and 336,000 gallons of oil leaked from a pipeline owned by Alpharetta-based Coastal Pipeline near Helena, Alabama, since the spill was first detected Sept. 9. It’s unclear when the spill actually began. The U.S. Department of Transportation is investigating the incident.

Deal recommended Monday that drivers maintain their usual travel schedules and gas consumption levels in an effort to not put further strain on gas distribution.

That strain can be felt throughout the area.

Bags could be seen covering pumps at the RaceTrac gas station off Buford Highway/Exit 14 of Ga. 400 Monday. The Texaco on Atlanta Highway (Hwy. 9) had hand-written signs declaring the station was “temporarily out of fuel.”

Only 3.25 gallons guzzled out of a pump at the Tri-County Plaza Chevron — at $2.59 a gallon.

Tuesday’s average price for gas in Georgia rose nearly 5 cents since Monday, to an average $2.36 — up almost 27 cents over the past week, according to the auto club AAA.

Are local prices affected?

Leon’s Budhani said the price of gas at his store increased in the wake of the shortage but was still in the $2.50 range. He said Leon’s is a community store, and the change was due to overhead costs rather than to bilk money from customers.

“I don’t believe in taking advantage of the situation and charging more,” he said. “Prices have gone up a little because some of the truckers are getting gas from other states, like Louisiana, so cost of freight has jumped 25-30 cents, so that’s why we have to go up a little bit.”

He said his store ran out of gas a few times while dealing with the shortage, in part due to an interrupted delivery schedule.

“One truck is 8,000 gallons,” Budhani said. “We order a truck and we hardly get 2,000 or 3,000 gallons of gas, then the next is [not] coming out for four or five days.”

Jerry Deeds, who was filling his truck at the store on Monday, said he has dealt with higher prices and shortages.

“It’s jumped up a good bit,” he said. “A couple of days ago, we had to get gas. It showed one price, but they only had the premium over there and it jumped from $2.45 to S2.90.”