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Mon, Sept. 16

Napolitano: Gas line rupture is cause of 'temporary' price hikes

Gov. Janet Napolitano says the increase in gasoline prices in Arizona resulting from the rupture of a pipeline that supplies about 54,000 barrels of gasoline a day to the state is temporary and will not cause an ongoing shortage.

At a press conference in Phoenix Wednesday, Napolitano and Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard insisted that they will keep a watchful eye on gas prices to ensure that they return to normal after the repair of the pipeline.

The sudden jump in the cost of gasoline followed the July 30 rupture of an 8-inch Kinder Morgan Energy Partners pipeline that carries the product from Tucson to Phoenix. Company spokesman Rick Rainey said investigators later discovered indications of stress-corrosion cracking and shut down the line completely earlier this month.

Napolitano's spokeswoman, Kris Mayes, said residents can expect to see the cost of gasoline rise as long as the pipeline is not functioning.

Rainey said the company will not open the pipeline until officials are sure that it is safe. He added that the initial rupture caused a 10,000-gallon petroleum spill and that Arizona Department of Environmental Quality officials are supervising the cleanup effort.

Mayes said that although gas prices already have increased between 7 and 10 cents a gallon in the Phoenix-metro area, prices could increase more in Prescott and other areas in northern Arizona.

She explained that to compensate for the 54,000 barrels of gasoline that is no longer running daily through the pipeline, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners has increased the flow of petroleum through another pipeline, which runs from California, by 30,000 barrels a day. Trucks will bring an additional 10,000 to 14,000 barrels of gasoline a day from Tucson and they have already made arrangements with west-coast suppliers for 145,000 barrels of gasoline that should arrive in Arizona within a week.

Mayes said trucks haul most of the gasoline used in northern Arizona from Phoenix. The region could face higher gasoline prices because of that.

"It would be related to the additional cost associated with having to truck (gasoline) up there," she said. "Once we get this pipeline fixed the prices should come back down."

There could also be a brief gasoline shortage at independent gas stations, which usually sell surplus gas, until the extra gasoline from California arrives, Mayes said.

"Right now there is no surplus," she said. "Stations that are affiliated and have contracts (with suppliers) are in much better shape."

Rainey said company officials are not ready to estimate when the pipeline will be back on-line.

As soon as the pipeline is operational, Mayes said Napolitano and Goddard will "make sure no one takes advantage of (the) situation."

Napolitano also said Wednesday that she wants Kinder Morgan Energy Partners to provide some assurance that their other two pipelines are safe and will not create a similar problem.

Mayes stressed that the situation is temporary.

"It'll pass," she said. "We'll get through this."

Contact the reporter at mhebert@prescottaz.com

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