Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order Monday preventing gas stations from significantly hiking fuel prices after a pipeline spill in Alabama led to long lines and dry pumps across north Georgia, echoing an existing state law that already bans price gouging.
Deal said news reports of "substantially" increased gas prices in some markets in his order led him to reiterate the law, which prohibits gas stations from gouging prices during a "state of emergency." The law allows gas stations to only hike prices based on the increased cost of transporting fuel or the cost of the gas, not on the increased demand for the fuel.
Colonial Pipeline over the weekend started a temporary project to bypass the damaged stretch of pipeline that has leaked more than 250,000 gallons of fuel near Helena, Ala. Deal and several other governors issued emergency orders last week to lift restrictions on truck drivers to help guarantee more fuel deliveries after the spill threatened fuel supplies in five states.
In metro Atlanta, where the pipeline is one of two main providers of fuel to the region, the spill sparked a run on gas in some areas. Long lines stretched around some busy gas stations over the weekend and several stores ran out of fuel, while commuters paid higher prices at many stations that remained open.
The average price per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline in metro Atlanta climbed to $2.40 on Sunday, up from $2.17 just a week ago. It's well above the national average price of $2.20 per gallon.
Motorists who suspect price gouging can report it to the state Consumer Protection office. The law requires gas stations to charge the same price they did immediately before the state of emergency unless there's "an increase in cost of the goods or services to the person selling the goods or services or an increase in the cost of transporting the goods or services into the area."
The pipeline firm said Monday it was shipping additional gasoline from Gulf Coast refineries to terminals in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas to "minimize supply disruptions."
Deal spokeswoman Jen Talaber Ryan said the governor has "done everything possible" to ease concerns about fuel shortages, including getting a federal waiver to give commercial truck drivers more leeway to haul motor fuel on Georgia's highways this week.
State officials also caution Georgians not to rush to the pumps unless they are running low on fuel and warning them not to hoard gasoline.
"I urge the public to maintain regular consumption levels and travel schedules in order to reduce further interruption in fuel supply," Deal said in a statement.