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Biden waives US shipping law to mitigate fuel shortages

The Biden administration has temporarily waived a century-old U.S. shipping law for one company in order to mitigate fuel shortages on the East Coast following the days-long shutdown of Colonial Pipeline due to a cyberattack.


Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement late Wednesday announced that he had approved the “temporary and targeted waiver request” for a single company. The waiver will allow foreign tankers to transport fuel between the Gulf Coast and East Coast. Under the Jones Act, goods shipped between U.S. ports are normally required to be transported by U.S.-made, owned and operated ships.


“This waiver will help provide for the transport of oil products between the Gulf Coast and East Coast ports to ease oil supply constraints as a result of the interruptions in the operations of the Colonial Pipeline,” Mayorkas said in a statement.


“The decision to approve the waiver was made after careful consideration and consultation with interagency partners across the federal government. The Departments of Transportation, Energy, and Defense were consulted in order to assess the justification for the waiver request and ensure the approval of the waiver is in the interest of national defense,” he said.

Fuel shortages have been reported across the Southeast since Colonial Pipeline, which supplies almost half of the East Coast’s gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, shut down operations following a ransomware attack on Friday. Large percentages of gas stations were reported to be out of fuel as of Wednesday afternoon. Gas prices also rose to over $3 per gallon for the first time since 2014 on Wednesday.

Colonial Pipeline restarted operations around 5 p.m. Wednesday evening, however it is expected to take several days for operations to return to normal.

“Tonight’s announcement means there’s an end in sight for the supply disruptions that have affected States across the Southeast,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement late Wednesday.

“As Colonial Pipeline works to safely and fully resume operations over the next few days, we will stay in close contact with the company and will continue to offer any assistance needed—as we have done since the outset of this shutdown on Friday,” she said. “As supplies return to normal, we will also continue our whole-of-government effort to mitigate any challenge.”

Psaki told reporters at a briefing Thursday that the Jones Act waiver would be in place "as long as it is needed to address the supply." The Biden administration has also issued waivers temporarily lifting environmental requirements for fuel and time constraints for truck shipments across some states in order to mitigate disruptions to the fuel supply. Officials have urged Americans not to hoard fuel.

President Biden, who said Wednesday he believed his administration would get the situation “under control,” is slated to deliver remarks on the Colonial Pipeline situation later Thursday morning.


This article originally appeared on The Hill

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