AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Gas shortage prompted angry emails to Ga. governor

In the hours and days after the Colonial Pipeline gasoline leak in Alabama, industry leaders and citizens began lighting up Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal's email asking for help.

The Sept. 9 leak in Shelby County, Ala., shut down one of the largest gasoline arteries between the Gulf Coast and the Southeast, causing gasoline shortages and price spikes across the South.

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sept. 25, the spill is the Alpharetta-based Colonial Pipeline's worst in the past six years. And the AJC analysis found that the company has reported 128 spills to federal regulators in that time -- a number that ranks sixth-most of the 208 companies  reporting spills.

The AJC obtained gas-related emails to the Deal's office through the Georgia Open Records Act.

The largest batch -- a couple of dozen emails -- came from citizens after several media outlets reported Sept. 19 that the governor's office said it hadn't received any complaints about gas shortages.

The office got plenty after that.

"So there is no shortage or complaints?" one person wrote. "Perhaps if (Deal) fueled his own vehicles and drove like the 99.9999-percenters, he would see reality. Count this as a complaint."

Industry types also asked the governor for relief:

"If granted, these waivers will hep prevent gasoline shortages at the retail level," says a Sept. 13 email from Roger T. Lane, president of the Georgia Oilmen's Association, to the governor's office.

The governor granted all three requests.

Thirteen metro Atlanta counties are required to use the lower-pressure gasoline during summer months, but the governor has the authority to suspend the requirement for 30 days in an emergency.

There also was a flurry of emails Sept. 19 after truckers were still being impeded by Georgia State Patrol.

Lane "wanted me to contact you this morning to see if your office could reach out to the DOT and ask that they be more lenient on trucks at the terminals until this crisis is over?" says an email to three people in the governor's office, including chief of staff Chris Riley and executive counsel Ryan Teague.

"He has received numerous calls that trucks are being pulled over at the terminal locations."

Riley responded a few hours later to Col. Mark McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety: "If this is true, can you please express to the motor carrier (compliance division) the importance of having this product delivered ASAP ... Unless there are visual safety concerns, I think we can allow these tankers to proceed right now."



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About the Author

Dan Klepal is a reporter on the AJC’s investigative team, focusing mainly on local and state governments. Klepal previously covered Atlanta City Hall and Cobb County, where he wrote extensively about the public investment in SunTrust Park. Prior to coming to Atlanta, Klepal covered city governments in Cincinnati and Louisville, Kentucky.