Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam recently declared a state of emergency in Executive Order 78, which was related to the Colonial Pipeline disruptions throughout the Commonwealth. The order was put in place to allow the U.S Environmental Protection Agency to issue fuel transportation waivers and funding for state and local governments to increase their gasoline supply.
The Colonial Pipeline, which delivers gasoline from Texas to New Jersey, ran into a number of gasoline supply problems and was forced into a precautionary shut down after a ransomware cyberattack. Workers had to shut off certain systems connected to the pipeline in order to free the IT software from hackers but said everything is expected to be working by Friday. They note that there isn’t a shortage of gas, but just a surge in demand. The gas is there – it’s just sitting in a pipeline.
“This emergency declaration will help the Commonwealth prepare for any potential supply shortages and ensure Virginia motorists have access to fuel as we respond to this evolving situation,” said Gov. Northam.
State officials said the ransomware didn’t spread to any critical systems that control the pipeline’s operations but that they are evaluating every action they can take to mitigate the impact as much as possible. They called it “alarming” that the cyberattack happened even happened and warned drivers that gasoline prices will continue to climb because of the pipeline closure.
GasBuddy, an app and website that offers drivers real-time fuel prices, tweeted a warning that if you don’t immediately need gas, they recommend you don’t fill up. “A surge in demand only makes the situation worse,” they wrote on Twitter.
The GasBuddy App reported a 7.6% outage rate for the state and also notes that some gas stations in Hampton Roads were running out of gas. Diesel outages were at 4.9%. The GasBuddy outage tracker was paused around 2 p.m. after experiencing “intense web server traffic” and reported that they would be updated shortly.
The Pipeline supplies about 45% of the fuel on the East Coast and is the primary source for many Virginia retailers, transporting 100 million gallons of fuel each day. Its various products include different grades of gasoline, diesel fuel, home heating oil, jet fuels, and fuels for the U.S military. EPA Administrator Michael Regan issued a waiver for numerous states that will allow them to use an emergency fuel waiver to help alleviate potential fuel shortages.
Regan reported that “extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstances exist and has granted a temporary waiver to help ensure that an adequate supply of gasoline is available in the affected areas until normal supply to the region can be restored.”
The cyberattack was conducted by a group of criminals known as DarkSide, who posted a statement on their website claiming their purpose is to make money and not create problems for society. Their members are Russian speakers and their malware is coded using Russian-language keyboards. GOP members brought up Biden’s strained relationship with Russia, as well as a “wake-up call” to build more pipelines instead of shutting them down.
“No cyber-gang in Russia can conduct this kind of attack against an American piece of critical infrastructure without the tacit or explicit knowledge of Vladimir Putin’s government. It shows that Joe Biden’s weak policy on Russia is having consequences for the American people,” Sen. Tom Cotton told “Fox News Primetime.”
Cotton also brought up the fact that Biden called Vladimir Putin a “killer,” extended a nuclear arms treaty that favors Russia over the United States, and emboldened him to launch these kinds of attacks on the U.S. He said Democrats have been beating their chests about Russia for the past four years, but have “returned to their weak, dovish roots once again” after Biden took office.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich even called for legislation to rank these cyberattacks to the same level as terrorist attacks. He said this kind of hacking was “subject to a death penalty” and that the law should include a provision to do so.
“I mean, we have now spent like 15 years on defense. We have no idea who they are, we have no idea where they are, and if we did know who they were, we’d have no mechanism to do anything about it. A great country cannot allow people to come in and savage it, have no consequences, and then wait for the next attack, and yet that literally is where we are right now,” Gingrich said.
President Biden and his administration said they are not blaming any country for the attack, but took the opportunity to tout his $2.25 trillion infrastructure spending package. President Biden claimed that the package would help “safeguard our critical infrastructure” from similar attacks in the future.
According to the Dems, cyberattacks are “infrastructure” too. Sounds about right.