Bentley signed the State of Emergency Tuesday that will facilitate the granting of a waiver from the U.S. Department of Transportation — Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is needed to lift the federal government’s limitation on the hours a driver can transport gasoline. The order will last until Dec. 1 unless the governor decides to terminate it sooner.
On Monday, a contractor working on the Colonial Pipeline in the area just south of Birmingham accidentally hit a 36-inch below-ground transmission pipe while unearthing threaded O-rings (TOR) for rendering the line inert, causing an explosion and fire. The contractors were attempting to install a permanent repair required after the previous pipeline ruptured Sept. 9, 2016.
An extended shutdown could create fuel shortages and higher gas prices in several states including Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee — similar to what happened following the September accident.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the six injured workers and with the family of the fatally injured worker,” Bentley said. “An accident of this magnitude is tough for any community to deal with, and I want to personally thank the local first responders for their immediate assistance to this accident, as well as the first responders from surrounding counties. They all provided resources and support to the help Shelby County in their time of need.”
Cell phone footage of the explosion via April Ruth Everett.
In addition to local responders, several state and federal resources are dedicated to responding to this disaster including: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Transportation, Alabama Emergency Management, Alabama Forestry Commission, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Shelby County Emergency Management Agency, Regional Paramedical Services and others.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management staff is actively participating in the response and is embedded within the Unified Command Center. Air monitoring is ongoing and boom has been deployed as a precautionary measure, but no surface water impacts have been documented at this time.
The Alabama Forestry Commission is also assisting by monitoring the wildfires within the containment lines.