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N.C.’s price gouging law now in effect as Wilmington-area officials caution against “panic buying” gas

Long lines like these are being reported at numerous gas stations in Wilmington and surrounding...
Long lines like these are being reported at numerous gas stations in Wilmington and surrounding areas.(WECT/Jack Gallop)
Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 3:28 PM EDT
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NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - North Carolina’s price gouging law is now in effect after Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency on Monday in response to the temporary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline due to a ransomware attack.

“The hackers who breached Colonial Pipeline’s systems have made it harder for hardworking North Carolinians to go about their lives, but I will not allow businesses to take advantage of this incident to charge excessive prices,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “North Carolina’s price gouging law is in effect – please let my office know if businesses or people might be trying to profit off this situation so we can hold them accountable.”

While the state’s price gouging law is in effect, Stein added that in some cases, businesses and industries that are heavily impacted by the incident causing the state of emergency have a reasonable need to increase prices in order to resupply. Those business and industries, Stein said, should disclose the increases and allow customers to make informed decisions.

“Businesses cannot, however, unreasonably raise the price of goods or services to profit from a state of emergency,” Stein said.

Report potential price gouging by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint at https://ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint/price-gouging/.

Gov. Cooper spoke with Jennifer Granholm, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, on Tuesday and she said that federal officials are working with utility and pipeline officials to quickly resume normal operations at the Colonial Pipeline, according to a readout of the conversation provided by the governor’s office.

While North Carolina is among the states expected to be the most affected by the pipeline’s shutdown, significant fuel supply shortages are not expected, the readout stated.

“I have talked today with federal officials including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and we have a full court press to get the Colonial Pipeline back up and fully operating quickly. Report price gouging and please don’t rush to top off your tanks,” Cooper said.

Department of Energy officials also urged people to not panic buy gasoline at this time.

Officials in New Hanover County say they have plans in place to ensure that public services will remain uninterrupted as they keep an eye on the fuel shortage situation.

New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman said she is not issuing a state of emergency at this time since Colonial Pipeline expects operations to fully resume by the end of the week.

“Should the situation change, we may choose to do so,” Olson-Boseman added. “I encourage residents to avoid panic purchasing fuel because that drives the shortage, and to conserve fuel by limiting non-essential outings.”

Similarly in Brunswick County, officials are monitoring the fuel situation and have plans in place to make sure that critical emergency services will continue.

“While Brunswick County does not have control over fuel supply and distribution to our county, our team is monitoring the situation and has already taken steps to conserve its internal fuel supplies to support emergency services, public safety, and critical utility and infrastructure needs as well as possible in the coming days,” the county stated in a news release.

Officials are also urging residents to try and conserve fuel whenever possible and to avoid creating potentially dangerous lines and congestion at gas stations.

The county offered the following tips from the U.S. Department of Energy:

  • Minimize idling your car by turning off your engine when your vehicle is parked for more than 10 seconds. Idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use, adding up to three cents of wasted fuel a minute.
  • Drive sensibly and avoid aggressive driving, such as speeding, rapid acceleration, and hard braking. Aggressive driving can lower your highway gas mileage by up to 33% and your city mileage by 5%.
  • Avoid high speeds. Above 50 mph, gas mileage drops rapidly. For every 5 mph above 50 mph, it’s like paying an additional $0.19 per gallon of gasoline.
  • Reduce drag by placing items inside the car or trunk rather than on roof racks, which can decrease your fuel economy by up to 8% in city driving and up to 25% at Interstate speeds.
  • Avoid keeping heavy items in your car; an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could increase your gas costs by up to $.03 cents per gallon.
  • Combine errands. Several short trips, each one taken from a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
  • Check into telecommuting, carpooling, public transit and active transportation like bicycling or walking to save on fuel and car maintenance costs.

In Pender County, Commission Chair George Brown issued a state of emergency in response to the fuel disruption.

“Pender County will ensure the continuity of local government operations,” Brown said in a statement. “The fuel disruption may extend through this week, according to our communications with state officials. We have issued a state of emergency and we are proactively addressing county staffing to ensure the safety of Pender County residents.”

Brown also urges residents to not panic buy or hoard gas which would worsen the situation.

County manager Chad McEwen said plans are currently in place to insure that all emergency and essential employees are able to commute to and from work.

“We are confident this plan will provide for continuity of all emergency departments, including DSS, Health, Utilities, Emergency Management, and the sheriff’s office,” McEwen said.

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