By Laila Kearney, Doina Chiacu and Laura Sanicola
(Reuters) -The White House was working closely with top U.S. fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline on Sunday to help it recover from a ransomware attack that forced the company to shut a critical fuel network supplying populous eastern states.
The attack is one of the most disruptive digital ransom schemes reported and has prompted calls from American lawmakers to strengthen protections for critical U.S. energy infrastructure from hacking attacks.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said the pipeline fix was a top priority for the Biden administration and Washington was working to avoid more severe fuel supply disruptions by helping Colonial restart as quickly as possible its more than 5,500-mile (8,850 km) pipeline network from Texas to New Jersey.
“It’s an all hands on deck effort right now,” Raimondo said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program. “We are working closely with the company, state and local officials, to make sure that they get back up to normal operations as quickly as possible and there aren’t disruptions in supply.”
Colonial said on Sunday its main fuel lines remain offline but some smaller lines between terminals and delivery points are now operational. Neither Raimondo nor the company gave an estimate for a full restart date and Colonial declined further comment on Sunday.
U.S. gasoline futures jumped more than 3% to $2.217 a gallon, the highest since May 2018, as trading opened for the week and market participants reacted to the closure.
Colonial transports roughly 2.5 million barrels per day of gasoline and other fuels from refiners on the Gulf Coast to consumers in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern United States.
Its extensive pipeline network serves major U.S. airports, including Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson Airport, the world’s busiest by passenger traffic.