Gasoline pipeline blast could raise pump prices in Southeast

HELENA, Ala. (AP) — A fatal explosion has shut down a pipeline supplying gasoline to millions of people across the Southeast – the second accident and shutdown in two months – raising the specter of another round of gas shortages and price increases.

It happened when a dirt-moving track hoe struck the pipeline, ignited gasoline and sparked a blast Monday, killing one worker and injuring five others, Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline said. Flames and thick black smoke continued to soar today, and firefighters built an earthen berm to contain the burning fuel.

The explosion happened not far from where the Colonial pipeline sprung a leak and spilled 252,000 to 336,000 gallons of gasoline in September. After the leak, the company used one of the Colonial's two main lines to move gasoline through as it made repairs, but it still led to days of dry pumps and higher gas prices in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas while repairs were made.

The Colonial pipeline provides nearly 40 percent of the region's gasoline and usually runs at or near full capacity. Together the Colonial's two lines carry more than 2 million barrels of fuel a day.

By midday today, Colonial Pipeline said it was able to restart the second of its two main lines, which carries diesel fuel and jet fuel. However, the company added that it anticipates the main gasoline line will be closed the rest of this week.

The severity of the situation will depend on how long the still-closed gasoline pipeline remains closed – whether it's a few days or a few weeks, AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said.

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