The Biden administration swung aggressively into action after a primary gasoline pipeline fell prey to a cyberattack — understanding that the situation posed a possible series of political and economic risks.
The pipeline shutdown was an all-hands-on-deck situation for a young presidency that has also had to deal with a pandemic, a recession, an influx of unaccompanied children at the southern border, a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and high-stakes showdowns globally that carry the specter of war.
The administration devoted the first half of the week to showcasing all the steps it was taking to get gas back to service stations in affected areas. It scrambled into action after ransom-seeking hackers on Friday shut down the pipeline, which delivers about 45% of the East Coast’s gas. The shutdown caused a supply crunch and spiking prices — all of which the administration was preparing to address.
Then, hours before the Colonial Pipeline was restarted, President Joe Biden signaled Wednesday that there were reasons for optimism.
“We have been in very, very close contact with Colonial Pipeline,” Biden said. “I think you’re going to hear some good news in the next 24 hours and I think we’ll be getting that under control.”
The president followed up later Wednesday with an executive order to improve cybersecurity. Biden’s team seized on the shutdown as an argument for approving the president’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure package. Keeping up Biden’s focus, the White House said the president would deliver remarks on the pipeline incident Thursday morning.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the cyberattack was a reminder that infrastructure is a national security issue and investments for greater resilience are needed.
“This is not an extra, this is not a luxury, this is not an option,” Buttigieg told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “This has to be core to how we secure critical infrastructure.”
The administration took a variety of steps to address the gasoline situation. The Department of Homeland Security issued a temporary waiver of a federal law overseeing maritime commerce to an individual company, not identified by the department, to allow the transport of additional gas and jet fuel between Gulf Coast and East Coast ports.