The White House struggled Wednesday to respond to the gas shortage on the East Coast of the United States, five days after the Colonial pipeline was shut down by a ransomware cyberattack.
President Joe Biden’s cabinet officials hesitated when asked when the shortage would end, punting timeline questions to Colonial, the private company in charge of the pipeline.
“I’ll defer to announcements from the company on their process,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at the White House daily press briefing.
Buttigieg declined to confirm assertions from Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm Tuesday that the pipeline would be restored at the end of the week.
“I would emphasize that there is a lot in getting a pipeline up and running again,” he said.
The White House deployed Buttigieg and EPA Administrator Michael Regan to the press briefing to lead the messaging about handling the crisis.
But the two government officials only listed minor shuffling of government regulations to help alieve the crisis and ongoing communications and monitoring from government officials.
When asked what his message was to Americans suffering gas shortages, Buttigieg replied, “My message is that we understand these concerns.”
Buttigieg also urged Americas not to hoard gasoline.
“This is a time to be sensible and to be safe,” he said, adding, “Hoarding does not make things better, and under no circumstances should gasoline be put into anything but a vehicle directly or an approved container.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki did not say whether President Joe Biden had spoken personally to governors about the crisis but said Energy Secretary Granholm held a conference call with the governors of affected states.
Regan said the EPA would waive some fuel regulations, allowing producers to send more gasoline to affected areas, but admitted it was not enough.
“While the waiver alone will not resolve the supply situation, it will help alleviate supply shortages,” he said.