Former Chief of Navy SEALs Finds Keystone XL an Easy Terror Target
By Brad Wieners, Business Week
June 04, 2014
Hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, a climate change activist and staunch opponent of the prospective 1,179-mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Cushing, Okla., has hired retired Navy SEAL chief David “Dave” Cooper to assess how vulnerable the Keystone XL might be to deliberate sabotage. In a 14-page report made public today (but redacted to keep it from being a playbook for aspiring terrorists), Cooper concludes that a small group of evildoers could easily cause a catastrophic spill of millions of gallons of diluted bitumen, or tar sands crude, from the Keystone XL. They could do it with as little as four pounds of commercial-grade, improvised explosives. Cooper even did a dry run, using the completed Keystone I pipeline as a proxy; he hung out at a critical valve station long enough to content himself that he could have planted some explosives and left without a hitch.
In what Cooper deems “the most likely scenario,” a single attack could result in 1.2 million gallons of Alberta crude tarring Nebraska farms and waterways. He calculated this using published emergency shutdown response times and pipeline flow forecasts from the government and TransCanada (TRP:CN), the company that wants to build and operate the line. A coordinated attack at multiple locations, Cooper suggests, could trigger a 7.24 million gallon flood.
Cooper is a highly decorated, 25-year veteran of the special forces and ran the elite unit known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group that’s far better known as “SEAL Team Six.” He declines to give details, but he served in Afghanistan and Yemen and was in the unit’s command during the rescue of Maersk Alabama Captain Richard Phillips off Somalia and the killing of Osama bin Laden. He was the top-ranking enlisted SEAL at Dam Neck Annex, in Virginia Beach, until his retirement in 2012.
Former Navy SEAL Commander Says Keystone XL Would Be Extremely Vulnerable To Terrorist Attack
By Ryan Koronowski, Think Progress
June 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm
Throughout Keystone XL’s approval process, both proponents and opponents have paid a lot of attention to pipeline safety. Some say that pipelines are safer than shipping oil by rail, while others point to pipeline explosions, spills, leaks, and failures that threaten aquifers, sensitive lands, and populous areas. The security vulnerabilities of the pipeline receive little mention. In fact, Cooper points out that the detailed discussion of how safe a completed Keystone XL pipeline would be actually provides detailed information to would-be criminals, saboteurs, or terrorists like the route, vulnerable areas, and the thickness of the pipeline. Even though much of this disclosure is unavoidable – on the part of owners and government officials – Cooper said it was “concerning” that neither spoke much about security.
He conducted a “red cell scenario” analysis of a domestic pipeline’s security vulnerabilities, accessing only the information available to someone with an internet connection and no inside knowledge from TransCanada or government. This involved a site visit to one existing pipeline – Keystone 1 – to ascertain how easy it would be for someone to gain access to a completed Keystone XL pipeline. This was done as a “cold shot,” meaning a mock penetration of a target with no practice or notification and very little planning. Cooper just went to the small town of Stanton, Nebraska and walked up to the pipeline.
He wrote that he was able to “stand at a Keystone 1 pump station for over 15 minutes snapping photos,” and “was not approached, questioned, or ever noticed.”
The assessment “found that a handful of terrorists could use just four pounds of explosives at each of the three pump facilities located [REDACTED] to cause explosives that could trigger a catastrophic spill of 7.24 million gallons of dilbit (with its highly toxic chemicals).” In the most damaging scenarios depicting a coordinated attack across dozens of miles of pipeline, several explosions at pump stations would cause 60 percent of the oil in those sections of pipeline to spill. Worryingly, it would take eleven and a half minutes to shut down the pipeline to stop the flow. Both of those numbers came directly, according to Mr. Cooper, from TransCanada’s own estimates. He used this to calculate that the amount could reach 8.21 million gallons.
Questions Raised About Integrity of Keystone XL’s Southern Route After Conditions Added for Northern Leg
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmogBlog
Thursday, 05 June 2014 09:36
The new conditions weren’t based solely on the construction issues found in the southern route of the pipeline, now called the Gulf Coast pipeline. They were the result of “observations in the field during construction projects from several pipeline operators over the past few years,” Damon Hill, spokesperson for PHMSA, told the Associated Press.
The new conditions were based on “systemic problems regulators found in the pipeline industry, not just the Keystone XL’s southern route,” Richard Kurpewicz, president of Accufacts Inc., a consulting firm that provides pipeline expertise, told DeSmogBlog.
Fairchild and Crawford are part of a group of landowners who live with the southern route of the Keystone XL pipeline on their property and who, along with environmentalists, met with Roderick Seeley, director of the Southwest Region of PHMSA, to ask questions about the inspection process they witnessed in January.
The group presented documentation of shoddy construction practices and questioned the regulators about their absence during the pipeline installation and repair process. PHMSA representatives conceded they don’t have enough inspectors to watch everything but said, despite their absence in the field, they have “faith in the process.”
“At the meeting, PHMSA assured us that all the problems we referenced had been fixed, even though that assertion was based almost entirely on taking TransCanada’s word for it,” the Tar Sands Blockade recently wrote on its blog. “PHMSA’s inspections only occurred an average of 2-3 times per month.”
The group that attended the meeting requested that a new pressure test of the pipeline be done to test the welds on the numerous repairs. A pressure test can pinpoint faulty girth welds. For each repair that required a segment of pipe be replaced, new girth welds were made.
“If girth welds fail, there is the danger of a rupture,” Kurpewicz told DeSmogBlog.
Evan Vokes, a former TransCanada mechanical engineer turned whistleblower, points out: “Flaws in girth welds are not easy to catch, so each new section introduced into the pipeline adds another potential weakest link.” He too believes a new pressure test is merited.
“We have very few tools to work with,” Jeffrey Wiese, PHMSA’s safety official, told industry insiders at a pipeline safety conference in New Orleans in 2013, according to an Inside Climate News report. But that doesn’t explain why regulators did nothing more than issue warning letters to TransCanada after identifying code violations, opting not to fine or sanction the company.
Vokes doubts the new conditions will change anything. “If sanctions are not levied, there will be no improvement in the system,” he said.
“If PHMSA believes the public is in danger, they have the power to shut down a project,” Kurpewicz told DeSmogBlog.