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When will NC gas prices stop going up?

Gas prices continue to rise in the Triangle as the oil industry in Texas works to get back to normal after Hurricane Harvey.

Motorists in the region are now paying about 41 cents more per gallon than they were on Aug. 25, the day the hurricane came ashore on the Texas Gulf Coast as a Category 4 storm. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in the Triangle early Tuesday morning was $2.601, up less than 2 cents from the day before and nearly 36 cents from a week ago, according to AAA.

The Triangle receives most of its gasoline and diesel from the Gulf Coast, and most of that through pipelines that originate in Houston owned by Colonial Pipeline Co. Colonial is still working to reopen the pipeline from Houston to Herbert, Texas, near the Louisiana line, but says it has been able to move some fuel to the Carolinas from Lake Charles, La.

In a statement released Sunday afternoon, the company said: “Colonial continues to ship as much gasoline and other refined products as available from Louisiana-based refineries and other refineries on the Colonial system east of Lake Charles, and will continue to do so as markets return to normal.”

Gas prices usually begin to go down around Labor Day, as the summer driving season comes to an end. AAA says the temporary shutdown of some refineries along the Gulf Coast will delay that decline, but that it expects prices will eventually come down.

Harvey knocked out nearly a quarter of the nation’s refining capacity. But Reuters reported Saturday that companies were beginning to restart some of their refineries, including Exxon Mobil’s Baytown, Texas, facility that is the second-biggest oil refinery in the country, capable of producing 560,500 barrels per day.

In the meantime, Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order on Thursday declaring a state of emergency that temporarily suspended vehicle size and weight restrictions for trucks carrying gasoline and waived limits on the number of hours drivers of those trucks can be on the road. On Wednesday, Cooper joined other governors in asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to waive certain federal regulations on the formulas for gasoline to try to boost supplies in the state, and those waivers were granted the same day.

The state law against price gouging also went into effect. The law defines gouging as “a price that is unreasonably excessive under the circumstances,” and state Attorney General Josh Stein urged people to report “suspiciously high” gas prices by calling 877-566-7226 or filing a complaint at www.ncdoj.gov. The statewide average for regular unleaded on Tuesday morning was $2.625 per gallon.

Despite the sharp spike, gas prices are far from record highs. According to AAA, the most motorists ever paid in the Triangle on average, not adjusted for inflation, was $4.058 per gallon of regular unleaded on Sept. 16, 2008.

Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling

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