Southern governors lift driver rules after gas spill

By Kathleen Foody, Associated Press

The governors of three Southern states are lifting restrictions on the number of hours that truck drivers delivering fuel can work, hoping to prevent shortages in both states after the shutdown of a pipeline that spilled at least 252,000 gallons of gasoline in rural Alabama.

Tanker trucks line up at a Colonial Pipeline Co. facility in Pelham, Ala., near the scene of a 250,000-gallon gasoline spill on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. The company says spilled gasoline is being taken to the storage facility for storage. Some motorists could pay a little more for gasoline in coming days because of delivery delays. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

ATLANTA (AP) — The governors of three Southern states are lifting restrictions on the number of hours that truck drivers delivering fuel can work, hoping to prevent shortages in both states after the shutdown of a pipeline that spilled at least 252,000 gallons of gasoline in rural Alabama.

Governors can suspend federal transportation regulations during emergencies.

Colonial Pipeline has said most of the leaked gasoline is contained in a retention pond near the city of Helena and there's no public safety concern. The spill was first detected on Sept. 9, but it's not clear when it began.

The company increased its estimate of the spill's size on Friday, saying it was between 252,000 and 336,000 gallons. Colonial doesn't expect to fully reopen the pipeline until next week. The pipeline runs from Texas to New Jersey, supplying fuel to states in the Southeast and on the East Coast.

Colonial said that supply disruptions would be felt first in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley issued his order on Thursday, saying it would remain in place for 30 days because the pipeline shutdown had "caused a disruption of gasoline to be distributed for the use of citizens throughout the state."

A spokeswoman for Bentley said Friday that he's in communication with pipeline company officials along with state and federal officials assisting at the spill location.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued a four-day order on Wednesday, and on Friday extended it for another week. Deal's order specifies that drivers who tell an employer that they are ill or tired must get 10 hours off-duty.

"We are confident these measures will help ensure Georgians' uninterrupted access to motor fuel until Alabama's pipeline is fixed," Deal said in a statement.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam late Friday lifted the restriction in his state on fuel truck drivers for a week.

"This is a precautionary measure as we are not currently seeing any widespread unavailability of petroleum in Tennessee," Haslam said in a statement. "We urge Tennesseans to maintain their normal fuel purchasing and driving patterns to help prevent any potential impacts on our fuel supply while the pipeline undergoes repairs."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency waived requirements this week that metro areas with air quality issues in Georgia and Tennessee use a cleaner-burning type of gasoline during the summer months. That requirement of the Clean Air Act expired at midnight Thursday.

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