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President Joe Biden lifted on Sunday restrictions on gasoline trucking in order to avoid any shortages in the wake of a cyberattack that shut down Colonial, the nation’s largest pipeline network.
Biden’s decision will allow trucks transporting gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined products to 17 states in the south and east of the country, as well as the District of Columbia, the Department of Transportation said in a statement.
In order to lift these restrictions, the president had to resort to the declaration of a regional state of emergency.
Among other things, the measure allows drivers to transport fuel without having to take breaks of several hours, as established by federal law.
Biden has taken this decision after Colonial had to suspend all its operations on Friday due to a cyber-attack.
Colonial, based in Georgia, has had to interrupt its operations on the 8,850 kilometers of pipelines it manages, which are essential for supplying large population centers in the eastern and southern United States.
The company transports up to 2.5 million barrels of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel a day from refineries in the Gulf of Mexico to the southern and eastern United States.
Its importance is vital to the country’s East Coast, as it is responsible for 45% of fuel transportation in that area, according to its website.
In a statement Sunday night, Colonial explained that its main lines for transporting fuel remain out of service, but some smaller pipelines between terminals and delivery points are now operational.
The company has suffered a “ransomware” attack in which a group of hackers blocked access to the company’s computers and is demanding money to free them.
Colonial has not disclosed who might be behind the attack, although cybersecurity experts point to “DarkSide,” a group allegedly based in Eastern Europe, as a possible suspect.
The company has not offered details on how long the pipelines will be shut down. Nor has it disclosed how much money the hackers are asking for to unlock its computers.
According to cybersecurity firm Coveware, last year, ransomware victims had to pay an average of $310,000 to unlock their computer systems.
This is one of the largest ransomware attacks ever made public in the United States.
The president was informed of the incident on Saturday, according to a White House spokesman, who assured that government cybersecurity agencies are doing everything possible so that Colonial can restore fuel transportation as soon as possible.
Some lawmakers have already called for increased regulations to protect the country’s energy infrastructure and have expressed concern about the impact it could have on fuel prices.