Pipeline Hack Revives Call for Florida to Create Its Own Stash of Gas

Gary Farmer


The ransomware attack that paralyzed the Colonial Pipeline for nearly a week, causing gas shortages throughout the Southeast, including Florida’s Panhandle, may revive one senator’s multi-year effort to convince the Sunshine State to establish its own petroleum stockpile.

Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, has filed bills since 2018 seeking to create a Florida Strategic Fuel Reserve Task Force to study creating a fuel stash similar in concept, if not in size, to the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Farmer Thursday called on Republican statehouse leaders to add his 2021 proposal, Senate Bill 1454, to the agenda when the Legislature convenes Monday for a special session to vet a proposed 30-year gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

“The Colonial Pipeline hacking exposed a major flaw in our state’s ability to be prepared for disaster to strike,” Farmer said in a statement. “Even though most of our state relies on port delivery to refill our tanks, fear itself was enough to spark the gas-buying panic, and empty the supply across the state.”

The state should create its own oil reserves not because of cyber sabotage, but hurricanes, he said, noting if people know there’s a secure stockpile of gas in the state, it could reduce panic buying before and after storms.

“With hurricane season poised to begin, there is the very real threat of gas shortages as storms approach or refineries are shut down,” Farmer said. “The only way to ensure gasoline continues to flow unimpeded in Florida no matter the cause is by establishing a strategic fuel reserve.”

Under SB 1454, the Florida Strategic Fuel Reserve Task Force would be under the state’s Division of Emergency Management (DEM) and commissioned to develop a strategic fuel reserve plan to present to lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Farmer cited how millions of Floridians fleeing from Hurricane Irma in 2017 – one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history – were left to contend with the storm where they ran out of gas amid gasoline shortages and long lines at the pump.

“Since the gas panic disaster of 2017, I’ve been calling for the creation of a strategic fuel reserve in Florida and I believe that today’s consumer-driven gas shortage is a perfect example of why it’s an absolute necessity,” he said.

There’s little chance Farmer’s bill, which never got a hearing during the session, will be revived for the special session, but former DEM Director Jason Moskowitz, who left the post in February, said it’s a good idea.

“I supported this idea as director,” Moskowitz, a former Democratic state legislator appointed in 2019 by DeSantis, told Florida Politics.

States reserve emergency fuel for agencies and law enforcement but under Farmer’s proposal, Florida would be the first to create a reserve that could provide gas to purchase in a natural disaster.

During the 2019 session, Farmer’s SB 404 passed through two panels before dying unheard in the Senate Rules Committee after the Florida Petroleum Council (FPC) dismissed the need for a state-based oil reserve

In an April 2019 hearing on SB 404 before the Senate Governmental Oversight & Accountability Committee – which unanimously passed the measure – FPC Executive Director David Mica said the task force “could be politicized. It could be driven into a lot of different directions very easily.”

“We’re not trying to get the state into the fuel business. We’re not looking for price control,” Farmer replied. “We’re just making sure we’ve got gas and fuel that our emergency management people, hospital and nursing home folks need in the wake of a storm.”

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