From the Weather Channel

Fears of rising gas prices are mounting two days after an explosion occurred along a stretch of pipeline in Shelby County, Alabama, that killed at least one person.

In addition to the death, at least five were injured Monday after a dirt-moving track hoe struck the pipeline – owned by Colonial Pipeline – igniting gasoline and sparking the blast. Federal and local officials are on the scene as the situation is still on-going.

Four of the injured remained hospitalized as of Tuesday afternoon, Colonial spokesperson Bill Barry said during a news conference. He had no further updates on their conditions or the severity of their injuries.

The explosion forced residents of several homes to evacuate in Helena and took place just five miles west of a recent Colonial Pipeline gasoline leak, according to

The fire prompted pipeline officials to shut down the pipeline that runs from Houston to New York for the second time in two months, according to a statement posted on Colonial’s website.

On Tuesday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency, which will ease restrictions on gasoline truck drivers and allow them to drive more hours.

The pipeline carrying gasoline could be down until at least Saturday, and the distillate line needs at least four days to be operational, a source with a Colonial shipper told Reuters. A second line carrying diesel, jet fuel and other distillates reopened Monday night, according to an update Tuesday on Colonial’s response website.

On Tuesday, gasoline futures rose as much as 13 percent, according to Reuters.

Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for, told that both Line 1 and Line 2 were down, making for a dire situation that could have led to large gas price increases in the Southeast and possibly outages.

However, DeHaan pointed to an update released on Tuesday afternoon by Colonial saying Line 2 had re-started and Line 1 would be shut down through at least the weekend.

“While still not an ideal situation in terms of gasoline supply, the fact Line 2 is back up is an important development,” he said. “Also, while ColPipe doesn’t indicate the pipeline will be restarted this weekend but that it could be just a matter of days that it is down is good. The situation has gone from being a critical situation to a possibly severe situation.”

DeHaan went on to say that gasoline shipments may be disrupted for days, but for now,  he expects motorists mainly in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina – and to lesser degree Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia – to see gas prices rise a few cents a day.

“Also, there may be minor outages at stations, but based on what we know now, they should be mild,” DeHaan said.

Helena Mayor Mark Hall told that the incident occurred in a rural area just outside the city of Helena but city officials will continue to monitor the situation.

Hall said the situation at the blast site continues to improve and Colonial officials have elected to allow the fuel remaining in the damaged line to burn off.

“I am deeply saddened by the death of one of the construction workers and continue to pray for the other workers who were injured by the blast,” Hall said.

Continuing fires in the drought-stricken area have hampered officials’ efforts to fully assess the damage Tuesday.

Alabama state interim Forester Gary Cole told in an interview that the woods fire in the vicinity of the explosion has been contained, but has not been deemed ‘controlled’ as of Tuesday afternoon.

Cole said crews from the Alabama Forestry Commission were on scene all of yesterday and through the night, as the fire department and other rescue personnel dealt with equipment and non-forestry related issues near the explosion site.

Cole also said the commission put in a diversion with heavy equipment to block the run of liquid – presumably fuel –  to divert it from contaminating streams and waterways.

“On the firefighting end of things, we were just trying to keep things from getting worse,” Cole said.

In total, Cole said the acreage burned as a result of the pipeline explosion was approximately 31 acres, but given the severe drought situation plaguing the state, it still made for a dangerous fire.

Karen Buerki, on-scene coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 4, told in an interview that had the pipeline not caught on fire it would be reasonable to say that 3,300 barrels of refined gasoline could have reached the Cahaba River, which is home to a number of threatened and endangered species.

“Response is going very well and no gasoline has gotten into surface water,” Buerki said. “The gasoline is still on fire a better option at this point.”

For the second time in as many months, the shutdown is likely to cause gas prices to rise in the southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the country, AAA told CNN on Tuesday.

“We were just beginning to recover from the gas price hikes we saw from the pipeline closure in September,” Garrett Townsend, an AAA spokesman in Georgia, told CNN. “The explosion will at least temporarily put a halt to the pump-price dip we’ve experienced over the past 30 days.”

Reuters reported that Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley told reporters that a crew of nine was working on the pipeline system at the time of the explosion.

Colonial Pipeline issued a statement via its website after the explosion, saying, “Colonial has shut down its mainlines in Shelby County, Alabama, after reports of a fire on its right of way. Colonial personnel and emergency crews are responding.”

Buerki explained that what sets this incident apart from when a pipeline link shut down fuel flow a few weeks ago is the fact it did not catch on fire at the time, which gave emergency officials more liquid fuel to deal with in the cleanup efforts.

“(The explosion) was much more isolated, so it has a very small footprint in comparison,” she said.

Reports initially stated that evacuations were being ordered, but city officials said there was no danger to residents; that may be subject to change if the subsequent fires spread rapidly.

As the fire continues to burn, talk has quietly turned to how Colonial Pipeline will be dealt with in the wake of two environmental disasters in the same state.

James Kelly, Department of Transportation community assistance and program manager for OPS Southern Region, told in an interview that there is a current set of pre-enforcement guidelines the company must follow, but everything moving forward will be determined based on the findings of a federal investigation into the incident.

“We are only on day three of the investigation and until we can process the data we have, it’s yet to see if we will do additional or increased (regulatory) enforcement, ” Kelly said. “We try to remain conscious of any current regulations, so I don’t think we will have any increased enforcement, but we will probably look to provide a prevention plan to prevent any such incidents in the future.”

Several members of the U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Caucus on Wednesday requested that Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx undertake a comprehensive investigation into Colonial, its liquid pipeline system and the company’s management as it relates to the maintenance and integrity operation of the system.

Those signing the request said that Monday’s incident marks the third major incident on Colonial’s system in just over a year and at least the seventh in less than five years.

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