HACKING & SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUES: This week, the hacking and shut down of the Colonial Pipeline fuel lines which is a primary source of motor vehicle and aviation fuel for our state and region, has caused shock and stress. As with any crisis, we are tasked with evaluating all factors and moving forward with lessons learned and specifically, how our fuel supplies will be made more secure in the future.
As Chair of the State House of Representative’s Ways & Means Transportation & Regulatory Subcommittee, I will work with stakeholders to address what happened and reduce our vulnerability in the future.
ANSWERS: We must understand the vulnerabilities that allowed this situation to occur. Our committee will seek answers on this situation, convene stakeholders as necessary, hear from the management of Colonial Pipeline, as well as those from other pipeline companies which serve our region, to better understand what happened as well as what’s being done to better protect our energy supplies. If this can happen to the Colonial Pipeline which is not the only pipeline serving our state, it is prudent to consider how our other energy providers could be impacted as well. The prospect of a sudden shutdown of natural gas in the middle of the winter, for example, is of great concern to our state.
WORKFORCE: Simply - we must increase the number of truck drivers. The shortage of these professionals is not new and we have been working on education and employment initiatives like funding “Be Pro, Be Proud and CDL driver training through our state’s Technical College System in our section of the budget. The business community, the SC Trucking Association and others have long been concerned that the shrinking number of qualified truck drivers would threaten our supply chain for gasoline and other things we need. This shortage is making a tough situation worse. The decision was made to lift the limit on the hours truck drivers are allowed to drive is a short-term measure to help bring fuel from coastal fuel terminals to our area. While this may be a temporary bandaid, there are risks to public safety and stress on an already burdened industry as drivers work longer without adequate rest and trucks run longer without proper maintenance. I will continue to work on funding for youth and adults to learn vital trades, like truck driving, so we’ll have more drivers on the road.
HOW CAN YOU HELP? We need to do more to encourage students to choose careers like truck driving, which pay good wages without the time and expenses of high degrees. As an educator, I’ve worked at home and in the General Assembly to provide educational options and choices for our state’s children. I’ll be working even harder to advance these efforts and create more opportunities for the next generation while working to build more stability in our communities but your help is critical. You can share information and encourage our youth. For more information: https://www.beprobeproudsc.org/ or https://www.tcl.edu/news/free-workforce-training-programs/
South Carolina’s strength is her people. In our history and most recently with COVID-19, we have learned a lot about how to pull together and pitch in. For this pipeline issue, it may be a few days before things get back to normal. Until then, think about ways you can save fuel and avoid adding to the lines and demand on the overwhelmed fuel supply chain. I know many of us are tired of staying home but those who can could certainly help those who cannot and that will leave fuel for those who may need it for work, school and emergencies.
We spend a lot of time in Columbia working on lots of issues, some are important and others are not. Finding ways to prevent our communities from being negatively impacted should be a top priority - but it must be done with all involved. This pipeline shutdown should be a wake-up call for us all to take stock of our dependence on fuel and to address critical vulnerabilities in the delivery system. I will continue to work hard to make sure these issues and others like them are addressed.
For today, if you happen to see one of those dedicated truck drivers who are working extra long hours, please thank them for once more going the extra mile in these tough times. I know they will greatly appreciate it!