CEO of Hacked Colonial Pipeline Warned State Officials

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The leader of the company whose fuel pipeline was paralyzed by a cyber attack warned state officials in a private meeting Monday that supply shortages could occur even as it plans to reopen the line later this week, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

Colonial Pipeline Co. Chief Executive Officer Joseph Blount said the company was in the process of developing an extensive restart plan, but wouldn’t resume shipments until the ransomware had been removed, according to the person, who was involved in the 18-minute virtual meeting that also featured Deputy U.S. Energy Secretary David Turk.

Blount made it clear the Alpharetta, Georgia-based company had complete operational control of the pipeline and said it was working with refiners, marketers and retailers to prevent outages, according to the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the discussion.

A company representative confirmed the meeting but declined to discuss details.

Colonial Pipeline has said it’s manually operating a segment of the pipeline running from North Carolina to Maryland and expects to substantially restore all service by the weekend. The pledge may not come fast enough to avert immediate shortages in the U.S. Southeast, where gas stations from North Carolina to Florida reported selling out of fuel Monday.

The 5,500-mile pipeline transports about 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast making it the nation’s biggest. It has been offline since Friday after it fell victim to a ransomware attack by hackers.

“It tells you how utterly vulnerable we are,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said during an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power” program. “We’re seeing all of these examples of ransomware attacks coming -- whether it’s telecommunications or this critical infrastructure. And obviously in my lane I’m very worried about the energy infrastructure.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement late Monday night that “we are monitoring supply shortages in parts of the Southeast and are evaluating every action the administration can take to mitigate the impact as much as possible.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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