At least 17 states located primarily along the East Coast, along with Washington, D.C., were included in a recent emergency declaration issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The announcement on Sunday came after a cyber attack on the Colonial pipeline last week by hackers demanding ransom payments.
“Not a minor target”
Reports indicate the states included in the declaration were deemed those to be most directly affected by the pipeline shutdown, which could prompt a spike in gas prices if the situation lasts longer than a few days and locations in the region begin to experience shortages.
In the initial announcement, Alabama, Arkansas, D.C., Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, are included in the effort to maintain a steady supply.
The incident could be the most significant cyberattack on U.S. infrastructure yet, though experts predict it will prove to be short-lived.
Extending about 5,500 miles, the pipeline provides about half of the fuel supply used on the East Coast, or roughly 2.5 million combined barrels of gas, diesel, heating oil, and jet fuel, per day.
Energy researcher Amy Myers Jaffe stressed that the pipeline “was not a minor target,” describing it as “ultimately the jugular of the U.S. pipeline system.”
“The most significant, successful attack”
As for the hackers behind the shutdown, she said they pulled off “the most significant, successful attack on energy infrastructure we know of in the United States,” asserting that it is “a definite alarm bell.”
A spokesperson for Colonial signaled a desire to fully restore its supply within the next few days, provided it could be done safely.
“At this time, our primary focus continues to be the safe and efficient restoration of service to our pipeline system, while minimizing disruption to our customers and all those who rely on Colonial Pipeline,” the company explained.
Aside from gas prices, the pipeline shutdown could also spark increased costs for the trucking and airline industries.
A Russian hacking outfit known as Dark Side is believed to be responsible, according to an FBI statement. The same organization was previously linked to an attack on an Office Depot subsidiary and the Enterprise car-rental company.