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Pipeline Vandalism Raises More Questions Than Answers

November 15, 2007
Bilirakis Blog

An act of vandalism to a 30-mile-long anhydrous ammonia pipeline in Riverview, Fla., has raised serious concerns about pipeline security. On Nov. 13, three teenage boys had drilled a hole into the pipeline in an alleged search for money. The leak resulted in the release of a noxious chemical cloud and the evacuation of thousands of local Hillsborough residents.

The Tampa Tribune reported today . . .

U.S Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, said he wants information from federal transportation officials about security for the nation's 160,000 miles of aging pipelines that carry gasoline and other hazardous liquids. Bilirakis took advantage of the Homeland Security Committee hearing to tell Edmond "Kip" Hawley, the assistant secretary of the Transportation Security Administration, that he will be seeking details about pipeline security. "I want to let you know that I'm going to be contacting the TSA about the security of these pipelines, especially in the Tampa Bay area, and the role TSA is playing in their inspections and security," Bilirakis said. "I hope that will direct the appropriate officials under your direction to take this matter very seriously," Bilirakis said.


St. Pete Times filed this story about confusion of who actually is in charge of securing the pipelines.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear who in government -- if anyone -- is in charge of safeguarding the nation's lines. Government officials said the brunt of the task falls to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, but a spokeswoman said the TSA has neither the staff nor authority to make sure every pipeline owner prevents the possibility of tampering. "Do we have regulations? No, we don't," said Sari Koshetz of the TSA. "There are guidelines, there are expectations." Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, said that may need to change. He called for a quick response from the head of TSA about security conditions here. "A simple act of vandalism by teenage boys affected so many people," Bilirakis said in a statement Wednesday. "Imagine how much damage and disruption a sophisticated and coordinated terrorist attack could cause." Hillsborough Commissioners Brian Blair and Rose Ferlita said that even though state and federal regulations don't require securing the section of the pipe that was vandalized, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. Commissioner Al Higginbotham said the matter merits an investigation.