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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

State of Emergency Declared for Pipeline Blast

(CN) — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency Tuesday after a pipeline explosion in Shelby County caused the shutdown of a major gasoline line, prompting fears of rising gas prices.

According to the governor, the declaration will allow for a waiver of certain federal restrictions to facilitate the transportation of gasoline while the pipeline is being repaired.

"This waiver is needed to lift the federal government's limitation on the hours a driver can transport gasoline," the governor's news release stated. "The state of emergency is effective Nov. 1, 2016 through Dec. 1, 2016 unless sooner terminated."

The explosion, which left one dead and at least five injured, occurred on Monday afternoon, at approximately 3 p.m. in a rural part of Helena, Ala., just outside Birmingham.

It involved the same pipeline that experienced a gas leak in September.

According to a statement from Colonial Pipeline, the Georgia-based company that maintains the line, the incident occurred when a work crew struck the line with a trackhoe.

Following the incident, the company shut down both of its main lines in Shelby County, though it reopened one of the lines, which transports diesel and jet fuel, on Monday night.

"At this time, we anticipate Line 1 remaining down for the remainder of this week," the company said in a statement released Tuesday.

Local emergency crews responded immediately to the explosion and worked to contain the resulting fire throughout the afternoon and night on Monday.

"An accident of this magnitude is tough for any community to deal with, and I want to personally thank the local first responders for their immediate assistance to this accident, as well as the first responders from surrounding counties," Bentley said. "They all provided resources and support to the help Shelby County in their time of need."

According to Bentley, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and Alabama Forestry Commission have also been actively involved in the response.

The explosion, which Bentley said occurred approximately "one mile west of the previous incident," has created fears of gas shortages throughout the South and along the East Coast.

The gas leak in September resulted in a temporary shutdown and brief gasoline shortages in Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

According to Colonial, the effect on local waterways is also being monitored.

"No observable impacts have been noted on nearby waterways or drainage paths," the company said in a statement. "Out of an abundance of caution, containment boom has been deployed at two different locations on the Cahaba River."

Colonial maintains more than 5,500 miles of pipeline throughout the southern and eastern United States.

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