Alabama declares emergency over pipeline explosion

© Marvin Gentry
Alabama governor Robert Bentley has declared a month-long state of emergency after a pipeline explosion in Shelby County that killed one and injured six workers.

The state of emergency came into effect on Tuesday, and will last until December 1 unless the governor decides to end it sooner.

On Monday, construction crews working on the Colonial Pipeline in the area just south of Birmingham accidentally hit a transmission pipe, causing an explosion in which seven workers were injured, one of them fatally. The explosion also started a fire. The contractors were attempting to repair the pipeline segment that was damaged in September, spilling gas into the countryside.

An extended shutdown could cause fuel shortages and higher gas prices in Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee, similar to what happened after the September accident.

 “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,” Bentley said, announcing the emergency declaration.

The state of emergency will enable Alabama to obtain a waiver from the federal government for transporting gasoline through the state, and avert fuel shortages caused by the pipeline disruption.

Aerial surveillance of the explosion site shows that the fire continues to burn. The gasoline line will remain out of service at least for the rest of the week, Colonial Pipeline said. The secondary pipeline – which transports diesel, jet fuel and other petroleum products, was returned to service Tuesday morning.