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Pipeline Security: An Overview of Federal Activities and Current Policy Issues

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Nearly half a million miles of oil and gas transmission pipeline crisscross the United States. The nations pipeline industry has made substantial investments to protect these systems and respond to the possibility of terror attacks. However, U.S. pipelines are inherently vulnerable because of their number and dispersion. Due to the essential role pipelines play in our economy, Congress is examining the adequacy of federal pipeline security efforts. The Transportation Security Administration TSA, within the Department of Homeland Security DHS, is the lead federal agency for security in all modes of transportation including pipelines. The agency oversees industrys identification and protection of critical pipeline assets through security reviews, risk assessment and inspections. The Office of Pipeline Safety OPS, within the Department of Transportation DOT, is the lead federal regulator of pipeline safety. While TSA and the OPS have distinct missions, pipeline security and safety are intertwined. There are questions about the appropriate division of responsibility between the agencies and about the resources they will have for mandated security activities. As the lead agency for pipeline security, TSA expects pipeline operators to maintain security plans based on security guidance initially circulated in 2002. TSA also plans to issue pipeline security regulations, although it is unclear if and when it will do so. This agency also intends to issue new analytic models to help operators identify critical facilities and assess vulnerability to terrorist attack. In 2003, TSA inspected 24 of the largest 25-30 pipeline operators to review their security practices and collect critical asset data. TSA found that nearly all of these operators had met or exceeded minimum security guidelines. All but two of the 24 operators also provided TSA with their security plans and critical infrastructure information.

Subject Categories:

  • Pumps, Filters, Pipes, Tubing, Fittings and Valves
  • Civil Defense

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