ILTA Colonial Pipeline Shutdown News Excerpts  
May 12, 2021

·        President says U.S. military may help transport fuel
·        Gas prices top $3 as Colonial shutdown causes shortages

President Joe Biden said he expects “good news” soon about a major fuel pipeline that was shut down by a ransomware attack last week and that he would allow the military to help transport gas to parts of the country that are running out.

“I think you’re going to hear some good news in the next 24 hours, and I think we’ll be getting that under control,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. He didn’t elaborate.

In the meantime, he said, “I’ve lifted some of the restrictions on the transportation of fuel as well as access to the United States military providing fuel, and with vehicles to get it there, places where it’s badly needed.”

The Colonial Pipeline system has been shutdown for five days since the cyberattack. U.S. pump prices topped $3 for the first time in six years as drivers lined up for scarce gas across the East Coast.

Biden said the attack demonstrated the need for U.S. investments in education to improve the nation’s cyber defenses. He’s proposed some $4 trillion in spending on infrastructure, social welfare and education programs.

“We need a significantly larger number of experts in the area of cyber security working for private companies, as well as private companies being willing to share data as to how they’re protecting themselves,” he said. “I think that’s part of the long-term answer, not just in terms of energy but across the board.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday characterized fuel shortages caused by a ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline system as more evidence of the need for an aggressive investment in the nation’s infrastructure.

Buttigieg said the attack was “a wake-up call” for the country to get serious about the systems that keep it running.

“We’ve now had, you could argue two major wake-up call experiences, one in Texas, and now one here, each with a different cause but both reminding us about the work that we have to do as a country,” Buttigieg said, referring to power outages caused by cold weather in Texas that occurred earlier this year. 

“The reality is that investing in world-class, modern and resilient infrastructure has always been central to ensuring our country’s economic security, our national security and as we’re seeing right now, that includes cybersecurity,” he said. “This is not an extra, this is not a luxury, this is not an option.”

New York officials sought to assuage fears of fuel shortages on Wednesday as concerns grow in the wake of a crippling cyberattack that shuttered one of the nation’s largest gas pipelines.

Top officials with the Cuomo administration said they are working with the federal government to “ascertain the potential impacts” of the Russian-based ransomware attack that forced the Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Texas to New Jersey, to go offline.

“At this time, state regulators and authorities are closely monitoring distribution and pricing in New York and have received no indication of supply challenges or price impacts to New Yorkers as a result of the shutdown,” Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority CEO Doreen Harris said in a joint statement.

“A multi-agency initiative to bolster pipeline cybersecurity begun in 2018 is a good start, but more can be done, critics say. “I have raised significant concerns with TSA’s focus on surface transportation, including pipelines, for years,” Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., told CyberScoop. He pointed to a 2018 audit from the Government Accountability Office that found that TSA’s pipeline cybersecurity work was inadequate and lacked “lack clear definitions to ensure that pipeline operators identify their critical facilities.”

“CISA says the federal Pipeline Cybersecurity Initiative draws on government and private-sector expertise “to identify and address cybersecurity risks to enhance the security and resiliency of the Nation’s pipeline infrastructure.” The initiative has shown promise, according to Rep. John Katko, of New York, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee.

“Now, in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline ransomware incident, ensuring the success, growth, and effectiveness of the Pipeline Cybersecurity Initiative is more important than ever before,” Katko wrote in a letter to Acting CISA Director Brandon Wales on Tuesday.”

Gas stations are pumping out days' worth of fuel in a matter of hours, and a growing number are going empty. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is begging Americans not to put fuel into plastic bags, or anything not designed to carry gasoline.

And governors are declaring states of emergencies while pleading with residents not to "panic buy" or fill up their tanks when they don't need to — requests that so far seem futile.

The disruption, sparked by a cyberattack that led to the shutdown of a major U.S. fuel pipeline last week, is taking on a life of its own and sparking a self-perpetuating problem.