FEMA Shuts Down Rumors Alleging It Created Fuel Shortages In Texas

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had to release statements Thursday countering rumors circulating about its handling of widespread damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.

These rumors included allegations that FEMA is blocking fuel supplies from getting to Texas, causing shortages.

“There are rumors that the fuel shortages in Texas are due to either FEMA blocking sales or fuel being committed elsewhere,” FEMA said in a statement. “This is FALSE.”

Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in late August, dumping 50 inches of rain on the greater Houston area. Thousands of people fled their flooded homes, and more than 40 people died.

Most of Texas’ oil refining capacity shut down in preparation for the storm, and many refineries are operating at a reduced capacity. More than 20 percent of the U.S.’s refining capacity was shut down due to Harvey.

Texas residents are experiencing fuel shortages, and people are waiting in long lines to fill their tanks. Some gas stations ran out of fuel entirely and are waiting for more supplies.

The situation has been exacerbated by Texas ports being closed to oil tanker traffic and because key pipelines shut down during the storm.

Apparently, there was a rumor that FEMA was blocking fuel from reaching gas stations across Texas. The agency put out a lengthy statement on the matter.

“It is true that there are some fuel shortages in Texas due to the impact of Hurricane Harvey,” FEMA said. “Gasoline retailers obtain gasoline supplies based upon the nature of their relationship with their suppliers.”

“With tight supplies in the region, gas stations that do not have a supply contract will have fuel shortages,” FEMA said. “Supply contracts will be met first before gasoline is placed in the open market. Sporadic increases in demand will increase consumption and continue to aggravate local distribution challenges.”

Gasoline supplies are headed for Texas, but it may take some time. Some ports and pipelines have begun to restart operations, but many roads are still blocked. Some refineries also plan to come online again, but others could take weeks to restart.

“Colonial Pipeline east of Lake Charles, LA is operating intermittently when refinery and terminal product is available to fill the line,” FEMA said. “The portion of the pipeline between Houston and Hebert remains down and Colonial is estimating returning this portion of the line to service this Sunday.”

“The lack of fuel is caused by a combination of factors including: refinery damage and shutdowns, damage to fuel terminals and the closure of crude oil ports in the region.”

The Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency have issued regulatory waivers to the Colonial Pipeline so it can get more fuel to market. The Department of Energy also plans on releasing more than 4 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

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