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King reacts to fuel issues

“My goal is to keep the supply of fuel flowing to those who need it.” That was the statement released by Alabama Attorney General Troy King Tuesday, however, by Wednesday local gas stations were running empty.

“We ran out about 10 to 15 minutes ago,” Shane Crockett, manager of the Highway 80 Citgo gas station on Highway 80 East, said at shortly after noon. She said she could not say when the next shipment will be or how much it will cost at the pumps.

“It all depends on what we get in,” she said. So what are anxious motorists to do?

“All I can say is be patient, we’ll get an order soon,” she said. Crockett said the station, which is typically busy throughout the day on a normal week, has seen a fair increase in business since the storm.

Apparently that increase in business caught employees at Parr’s Chevron on Highway 80 East by surprise. At about 11 a.m. Assistant Manager Janet Brocks felt confident the store had plenty of gasoline, saying she had heard people worrying about the dwindling gas supply.

“We’re doing OK,” she said. She said the store had been busier the last couple of days, but supplies were strong.

By early afternoon management predicted about two hours left at the pumps.

Additionally, stations in Linden, Jacksonville, Thomasville and other areas in the region were either out or running out of gas.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and King said residents should not panic or worry that the overall supply was going to run out, because they won’t let that happen.

King, after consulting with Riley, took actions Wednesday to ease restrictions that could “hamper the supply of gasoline and diesel fuels throughout Alabama in the wake of Hurricane Katrina,” by temporarily lifting enforcement of certain regulations to “alleviate disruption to supplies.”

He said the measures would “help ensure fuel for emergency personnel, as well as maintaining availability of gasoline and diesel for the general public.”

King also asked the Environmental Protection Agency to take similar action.

“We are asking the petroleum suppliers to work with us to provide fuel to this state, and we do not want to tie their hands as we all work together to meet this crisis,” King said. “By temporarily lifting these two regulations, we will have the flexibility to safely get fuel where it is needed and prevent disastrous shortages.”

The fuel crisis is a direct result of Katrina, after two major fuel supply lines, Colonial Pipeline and Plantation Pipeline, both of which bring fuel from Gulf Coast refineries and run through Alabama up to the Eastern seaboard, were forced to evacuate personnel and suspend all operations.

“The degree of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina to the petroleum infrastructure is unknown at this time,” the attorney general’s office stated. “Supplies have been severely disrupted by evacuation of personnel and halting of operations prior to the storm’s strike and in its aftermath.”

James Allen Main, director of finance for the state of Alabama, apparently was not as confident, sending the following memorandum to Cabinet members:

“We are anticipating a significant disruption of gasoline supply for the immediate future and are directing that all non-essential travel be curtailed immediately. We must set an example for all levels of government to ensure that emergency, public safety and military have sufficient fuel to accomplish their respective missions.”

Another concern that has been raised in recent days is the price of gas at the pumps, with some worrying the price may rise above $3 per gallon by next week, but that is something that can only be speculated on.

“There is the possibility (of an increase) with each load we get in,” Brocks, assistant manager of Parr’s Chevron, said. “It all depends on what they charge us.”

Crockett at Highway 80 Citgo agreed, noting the price is directly linked to what the station is charged by its supplier.