Pipeline attacks, as well as attacks on other types of energy infrastructure, are on the rise in the U.S., thanks not only to terrorism, but to pipeline protests as well. This is an obvious safety issue, but less obvious is the millions of dollars these attacks cost U.S. taxpayers each and every year. That’s why Congress recently insisted on the development of a new way to track these events, and the result was the creation of the Energy Infrastructure Incident Reporting Center.
Why Tracking Pipeline Attacks is Critical
The database clearly demonstrates this increased frequency. Four high profile attacks occurred in 2017 alone, all of which were protest-related. And in late 2016, a serial arsonist caused over $2 million in damages to earth-moving equipment along the Dakota Access Pipeline.
By tracking these events, decision-makers can potentially identify patterns to help improve the ability of officials to predict pipeline attacks. This in turn could lead to the development of predictive technologies that could be deployed to help prevent incidents in the future. The ability to track these events also helps promote general awareness of the risk, which should improve the degree to which these scenarios are incorporated into emergency plans and into public awareness.
The bottom line is that this level of tracking is a relatively simple yet effective way to boost pipeline emergency preparedness, and for that reason I applaud the effort. And it does not just help pipeline companies; pipeline attacks can cause explosions or other collateral events that could impact transmission lines, natural gas pipes, and even water utility storage towers – a true win-win-win for the utility industry.