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John Townsend
Public Relations Manager, DC
O: (202) 481-6820 (ext. 4462108)
C: (202) 253-2171
jtownsend@aaamidatlantic.com

WASHINGTON, D. C. (Tuesday, September 11, 2018) –– Motorists along the East Coast could potentially see spikes in prices at self-serve gasoline kiosks in the wake of Hurricane Florence, which could bring record storm surges and extreme inland flooding. That is especially true for residents under evacuation orders in the coastal areas and flood-prone areas of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, where Governors of the respective states have issued evacuations orders. The number of residents and tourists called upon to leave the area is estimated at one million, including nearly 250,000 residents in the flood-prone evacuation zone in the Tidewater and coastal areas of Virginia. The exodus of residents and tourists from these area could drive up gasoline prices in and around the evacuation zones.

              

Spikes in pump prices likely will be brief, but dramatic. Fortunately, since Sunday, the average price for unleaded gasoline along the projected path of Hurricane Florence has remained relatively stable, according to the AAA Gas Prices.com. The national average price point for a gallon of unleaded regular is $2.84 overnight, compared to is $2.85 a gallon yesterday and $2.83 a gallon a week ago, notes AAA Mid-Atlantic. That compares to an average pump price of $3 per gallon in the nation’s capital, which is up a penny from $2.99 a gallon yesterday. Pump prices remained stable overnight across the Washington metro area, averaging $2.80, virtually the same as yesterday.

CURRENT AND PAST GAS PRICE AVERAGES 
Regular Unleaded Gasoline

 

Today

 

Week Ago

 

Month Ago

 

Year Ago

 

Washington, D.C.

 

$3.00

 

$2.99

 

$3.04

 

$2.86

 

D.C. Metro

 

$2.80

 

$2.79

 

$2.82

 

$2.69

 

Maryland

 

$2.83

 

$2.79

 

$2.83

 

$2.73

 

Virginia

 

$2.61

 

$2.60

 

$2.62

 

$2.53

 

National

 

$2.84

 

$2.83

 

$2.86

 

$2.67

 

 

“A catastrophic storm system, such as Hurricane Florence, could cause an increase in fuel demand, due to panic buying, leading up to the storm and then reduce demand dramatically post-hurricane,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “What is more, flooding and power outages have the potential to knockout parts of the Colonial and Plantation pipelines. Most of these pipelines are located inland, but the region has seen more rainfall, as compared to last summer.”

 

As of this morning, states of emergency have been expeditiously declared in the District of Columbia, as well as in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina. This afternoon, the Governor of West Virginia issued a “State of Preparedness” in advance of Hurricane Florence. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s declaration of a public emergency went into effect immediately and will stay in effect for 15 days. Of importance to consumers, Mayor Bowser’s “emergency declaration prohibits price gouging during the public emergency or for the next 30 days (whichever is shorter).” So make sure your vehicle has a full, or a three-quarter tank full of fuel. But avoid panic buying, which could cause long lines at filling stations, or a run on gasoline or shortages. It occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina during 2005, after Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and after the rupture of the Colonial Pipeline in 2016. Plan ahead. Be logical. Stay cool.

 

Gasoline and diesel supplies are expected to tighten in the path of Hurricane Florence. In fact, gasoline futures are already rising in early trading, as a result of “a rush among millions of motorists to fill up ahead” of  Hurricane Florence, reports the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS), which provides daily fuel price data to AAA. Compounding matters, fuel deliveries are likely to be reduced, limiting fuel supply at terminals and at local stations as Hurricane Florence bears down on the East Coast, particularly in the hurricane watch area from Edisto Beach South Carolina, northward to the North Carolina-Virginia border.

Hurricane Florence is expected to track over parts of North Carolina, Virginia and northern South Carolina through Saturday. Ahead of the landfall of Hurricane Florence, the Governors of impacted states will likely request RVP fuel waivers. Put simply, “RVP is an abbreviation for ‘Reid vapor pressure,’ a common measure of and generic term for gasoline volatility,” explains the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is the gasoline sold at retail stations during the summer ozone season, which runs from June 1 to September 15. Such waivers empower impacted consumers, agencies and businesses to address fuel supply disruptions caused by damage resulting from hurricanes, and other natural disasters and catastrophic events, including infrastructure limitations, shortages, allocations and product outages.

 

At this juncture, the states in the path of Hurricane Florence are still awaiting RVP relief from the EPA, according to the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS).  Until then, “marketers in the states in Florence's path must continue to use 9-psi RVP maximum fuel,” OPIS notes. In such circumstances, the EPA, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), will like grant a waiver of the federal requirements for the use of low volatility “summertime” or Reformulated Gasoline (RFG) in impacted areas.

 

“The EPA is believed to be looking at requests to make more fuel available as Hurricane Florence approaches the Middle Atlantic and Southeast but has not yet acted, sources say,” said Tom Kloza, Global Head of Energy Analysis for OPIS. “When issued,” the EPA explains, “these temporary waivers are necessary to help ensure that an adequate supply of fuel is available, particularly for emergency vehicle needs.” The waivers will also benefit motorists and consumers in the affected states, including in the event of gasoline supply disruption, notes AAA Mid-Atlantic. In light of this, AAA will continue to monitor the storm and will provide updates. Motorists can find the latest gas prices at GasPrices.AAA.com.

 

Historically, multi-state fuel waivers are put in place in “boutique fuel markets” along the East Coast and other areas to “avoid spikes in fuel costs for both the industry and consumers.” Last year, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which resulted in the shutdown of nearly a dozen refineries in the Gulf Coast area, and production and pipeline limitations due to storm damage, the EPA issued emergency fuel waivers for Gulf and East Coast states, including  Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia and ten other states, namely, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. It went into effect on August 30, 2017 and remained in place through September 15, 2017.  

 

The next day, August 31, 2017, the EPA approved emergency fuel waivers for 38 states and Washington, D.C. to “help ensure an adequate supply of fuel throughout the country” as “a result of the continuing impacts on Gulf Coast-area refineries and disruption to the fuel distribution system caused by Hurricane Harvey.” A year earlier, the EPA issued a waiver for a multi-state area that included Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and an assortment of ten other states, plus Delaware and Pennsylvania, to address a fuel supply emergency caused by a failure of a segment of the Colonial Pipeline in Alabama. The waiver was issued on September 16, 2016. Weeks later, the EPA issued another waiver, this time on November 3, 2016, to address a fuel supply emergency caused by a failure of the Colonial Pipeline.

 

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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and nearly 79,000 members in the District of Columbia.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit  http://aaa.com

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Who's in the Driver's Seat? The Transformation of Transportation

On Tuesday, October 17, 2017, AAA and TEDx Wilmington held the first TEDx Salon dedicated to ideas worth spreading in transportation.

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