As gas prices have crept higher over the past week following the recent cyber attack on the nation’s largest refined oil pipeline, panic buying has caused some concerns for businesses and individuals, but so far local governments are managing the challenge.
While the municipal governments are prepared and responding to the risk of shortages, that level of preparedness varies across the county.
For the Williamson County government they have fuel reserves on hand to meet the needs of the variety of county vehicles from Williamson County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicles, county EMS and fire trucks to public works and school buses.
The county uses a competitive bid process to select fuel providers, and according to Williamson County Emergency Management Agency Public Information Officer Hannah Bleam, the county is at no risk of running out of fuel.
“Government maintains, or has contracts in place to maintain, adequate supplies of fuel to support daily operations as well as emergency scenarios. When planning for a shortage, additional fuel procurement is only a piece of the conversation,” Bleam said.
“Departments look into other, more sustainable solutions like carpooling, virtual work options, and alternate work schedules when planning. These additional solutions ensure that governments are only using the amount of fuel required for critical operations, and we suggest that everyone consider these types of alternatives in their personal planning as well.”
According to Franklin Communications Manager Milissa Reierson, the city of Franklin has an arrangement with a Nashville-based fuel supplier who has made it a top priority to keep their municipal customers supplied.
“All city departments, including police, fire, public works and those housed within City Hall, have equal access to the fuel available to the city,” Reierson said. “Our fuel supply contract addresses shortages, power failures and other possible crisis or disaster scenarios. We have established plans that allow City emergency and essential services to continue without disruption.”
Some cities like Brentwood have a municipal refueling center specifically for their government vehicles, and according to Brentwood Community Relations Director Deanna Lambert.
“We are planning on it to affect us, but at this point it’s not affecting us yet,” Lambert said on Thursday, just hours before Colonial Pipeline Co. restarted operations.
As of midday Wednesday, Brentwood had access to 32,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline and 23,000 gallons of diesel, which is just over 70% of their storage capacity for each fuel type.
Lambert said that these numbers mean that day-to-day services can be maintained for 80 days for the city’s fleet of gasoline vehicles and 135 days for diesel vehicles like fire trucks.
While the pipeline system has been restarted following Colonial’s payment of nearly $5 million to the hacker group responsible for the ransomware attack, industry experts have said that the impact of the shortage could continue to be felt for the next few days.
Local, state and national government officials are asking people not to panic buy or horde gasoline, as the nation’s ability to distribute fuel has remained operational despite the attack.
That panic buying has raised some concerns over government employees actually being able to get to work, and for smaller towns like Nolensville, who don’t have municipal fuel reserves and rely on the supply of the local gas station like the rest of the community.
Nolensville Town Manager Victor Lay said in an email that Town Hall began internal conversations about what measures they may need to take to extend their supplies of gas, and said that the town purchases fuel from several gas stations using a Wex fuel card system to pay for their purchases.
Lay said that keeping Nolensville Police Department vehicles fully operational has been the town’s number one priority in regards to the fuel concerns, adding that public works vehicles are also considered important in the town’s function. The Nolensville Volunteer Fire Department secures fuel through the county.
“Since we don’t have our own fuel supply, the ‘panic buying’ has the potential to limit our ability to secure fuel and, obviously, raises the price for consumed fuel,” Lay said. “However, at least one of the fuel locations has reserved a supply for our Police Department.”