White House downplays any supply challenge from pipeline attack
The White House said Monday that a cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline, the largest oil supplier in the Northeast United States, has not yet resulted in supply shortages but that officials are monitoring for potential disruptions in the future.
“Right now there is not a supply shortage. We are preparing for multiple possible contingencies … and considering what additional steps may be useful to mitigate any potential disruptions to supply,” White House homeland security adviser Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall told reporters at a briefing Monday.
Sherwood-Randall said later that the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration is analyzing potential supply disruptions and impacts to fuel prices.
“We’re working with other agencies to consider how if necessary we can move supplies to a place where it might be needed if it turns out there is a shortfall,” she added.
The ransomware attack occurred last week, leading the main line of the Colonial Pipeline to shut down its operations for several days, prompting concerns about fuel shortages and the potential for rising gas prices. Colonial Pipeline provides almost half of the fuel for the entire East Coast.
Sherwood-Randall said Monday that the company shut down the pipeline “as a precautionary measure” and to prevent the ransomware from spreading from IT systems to other networks.
She also noted that the federal government has already taken steps to mitigate potential disruptions, citing the hours-of-service waiver issued by the Department of Transportation on Sunday that provides more flexibility for drivers transporting gasoline, diesel and jet fuel across 17 states and Washington, D.C.
Colonial Pipeline said Monday that it expects to “substantially” restore operational service by the end of this week by using a phased approach to bring operations back online.
“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 said in a statement. “We appreciate the patience of the traveling public and the support we have received from the Federal Government and our peers throughout the industry.”
The FBI confirmed on Monday that the hacking group DarkSide was responsible for the ransomware attack and said the bureau is working “with the company and our government partners on the investigation.”