Pipeline tampering activists beware, industry and CSIS monitoring energy infrastructure

pipeline

Climate Direct Action activist closing a pipeline valve at a pumping station.

CSIS not releasing details, but says it is monitoring threats to energy infrastructure

Construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline is set to begin this fall, which raises the spectre of more pipeline tampering of the sort engaged in last fall by five Climate Direct Action actvists, who shut valves on high-pressure pipelines, then waited to be arrested. What sort of security precautions might greet protesters of the Kinder Morgan project if they try similar tactics this time?

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We asked an oil and gas security solutions specialist Freddy Ramsoondar at GPS Security in Edmonton what specific measures could be taken.

“We have portable solar surveillance units which are solar powered and have four to eight cameras. These units have heat mapping, motion detection, line crossing detection, pattern movement and leak detection,” he said in an interview.

“If someone approaches a pipeline, to potentially tamper with it or otherwise, it creates an alarm sent to a monitoring station, and from there we can send the nearest local RCMP in the area. In a local urban area, we have patrol vehicles that can be sent out as well.”

The units can cover up to half a kilometre.

But if the pipeline itself or remote pumping stations need to be monitored, there’s a solution for that as well.

“We also have surveillance drones that can keep an eye on the pipelines. The drones have a charging mechanism, to fly the pipeline, 10-15 kms and they hit the surveillance unit and can recharge from that unit,” said Ramsoondar.

“Six or seven drone units could cover over 50 kms, without recharging.”

Not only are pipelines well monitored, but if a protester that tampers with an oil and gas pipeline or facility(such as a pump station), could face a maximum sentence of life under a charge of mischief endangering life.

Three Ontario activists who shut down Enbridge line 9 pump station were charged with it, but charges were subsequently dropped, because the activists had warned Enbridge, and Enbridge was able to shut the line down, according to the Observer.

Kai Nagata. Photo: Dogwood Initiative.

Kai Nagata, a Vancouver-based environment campaigner with Dogwood Initiative, worries that frustration with the Kinder Morgan process and decision will cause as many as half of the local activists to opt for civil disobedience or violence.

“I think no matter what, we’re going to see the threats of escalating civil disobedience,” he said in an interview.

“The reality is that you’re going to see calls this month for civil disobedience, for physical resistance to the pipeline expansion. We’re going to see basically a pledge of resistance and this being the 21st century, I think we’re going to see these kinds of messages travel very quickly thanks to social media.”

Tahera Mufti, public affairs chief for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, says CSIS works in close collaboration with domestic and foreign counterparts “to protect Canada’s critical infrastructure.”

“While we cannot publicly disclose our investigational interests, we can say that CSIS’s threat assessment for the energy sector remains constant,” Mufti wrote in response to emailed questions.

“Globally, the energy sector remains a significant target for attacks from various domestic and foreign entities.

Mufti emphasizes that the definition of threats in the CSIS Act specifically excludes lawful protest and dissent. Per the CSIS Act, the organization does investigate activities that fall within the definition of threats to the security of Canada.

“CSIS has a duty to identify and advise the Government of threats to our national security, and we exercise our authorities set out in law to fulfill this mandate. Any individual engaged in threat-related activities may be subject to this kind of lawful investigation,” Mufti said, noting that CSIS does not release information on threats to specific infrastructure, such as Trans Mountain Expansion.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association(CEPA) warns that tampering with pipelines is criminal activity that can be extremely hazardous both to public and environmental safety.

“Activists need to recognize that an unauthorized and unscheduled valve closure on any pipeline could result in unpredicted pressure changes, which can pose some extremely serious risks,” said CEO Chris Bloomer.

Bloomer says that all pipeline companies have a master control room where pipeline operations are monitored using a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system.

Posted in: Jude on Alberta

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