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 Natural Gas Infrastructure Security - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS) 

Questions:

What are natural gas utility companies doing to make their systems safer?
What specific actions have natural gas utilities taken to protect their pipelines from terrorist threats?
What if a terrorist attacks (fill in the blank) on the natural gas delivery system?
Can you guarantee your customers’ safety?
Will you cooperate with government to provide sensitive information?
What do you need from the government to assist your safety efforts?
What is the greatest risk that terrorist activities pose to natural gas utilities and facilities?
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Q: What are natural gas utility companies doing to make their systems safer?

Natural gas utilities have time-tested safety and emergency response plans in place. They are experienced in implementing these plans to deal with “commonplace” threats to service such as earthquakes, tornadoes and excavation damage to pipelines. Natural gas utilities are strengthening security measures in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
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Q: What specific actions have natural gas utilities taken to protect their pipelines from terrorist threats?

First, they participate in several alert systems. AGA and most of its natural gas companies coordinate through government bodies such as the FBI, the Department of Transportation and Department of Energy to learn of any potential terrorist activity.

Second, local companies rehearse, review and refine their security measures on an on-going basis. Natural gas utilities have long-established relationships with local, state and federal law enforcement officials. Safety and reliability always have been at the heart of everything utilities do.

Third, gas utility companies monitor their systems 24/7. Always have, always will. A pipeline’s flow and pressure are monitored and regulated around the clock – just as they successfully were at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on Sept. 11th.

Fourth, utilities deploy additional resources as needed. This may involve calling up additional manpower to reinforce existing security along our pipelines. Or it could mean the deployment of sophisticated technology. The tools used to prepare and respond will vary from utility to utility, depending on the areas each company considers the most critical.

Fifth, extensive emergency response plans are in place, as required by the federal Office of Pipeline Safety at the Department of Transportation. Gas utility companies coordinate response and supply needs with emergency response and law enforcement officials, as well as with neighboring utilities, pipeline companies and other energy companies.

Finally, gas companies’ preparation and experience showed itself on Sept. 11th, when local utility teams were on location at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, right along with police and other emergency response teams.

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Q: What if a terrorist attacks (fill in the blank) on the natural gas delivery system?

We are not here to offer a how-to course for terrorists and we will not speculate.

We can tell you that local natural gas utilities have assessed their risks and vulnerabilities and are enhancing their security programs. Their systems are monitored around the clock, and valves and pipelines can be shut off or sealed in a number of ways. There are elaborate, time-tested back-up programs in place along the system. The natural gas industry completed a top-to-bottom review of its systems in preparation for Y2K, spending more than a billion dollars to improve and enhance the systems.

Gas companies work in partnership with other utilities; other segments of the natural gas industry; and federal, state and local law enforcement officials to address safety and reliability concerns. And CEOs from gas utility companies around the nation are pooling their experience and knowledge on security issues while participating in an AGA-sponsored Committee on Security, Integrity and Reliability.

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Q: Can you guarantee your customers’ safety?

We can guarantee that our companies have assessed the threats to their systems and they have strengthened their security measures. Safety and reliability are the foundation of the natural gas delivery system.
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Q: Will you cooperate with government to provide sensitive information?

AGA is partnering with several branches of the federal government, including the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Justice and the new Office of Homeland Security to address security concerns. We’re also working with all segments of the natural gas industry and other energy groups to share resources and experiences. We’re following the successful model that the energy industry used to tackle the challenges posed by Y2K.
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Q: What do you need from the government to assist your safety efforts?

Natural gas utilities have asked Congress and respective branches of the executive branch for assistance in measures that increase security. AGA’s recommendations include:

Increased government funding of R&D that addresses energy security issues, such as encryption technologies to prevent hacking, and technology that allows real-time monitoring of “hits” to pipelines.
Appropriate restrictions on public availability of infrastructure and business information that could present security risks.
Exemption from the Federal Communications Commission’s auction process for Multiple Address Systems (MAS) broadcast channels traditionally used by utilities for dedicated emergency communications and to monitor and control valves along gas and water pipelines, among other activities. AGA has further requested that the FCC allocate 15 new MAS channels for use by critical infrastructure industries.
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Q: What is the greatest risk that terrorist activities pose to natural gas utilities and facilities?

It is irresponsible to publicly speculate. Natural gas utilities have been world leaders in safety: their safety programs and activities have only intensified since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th.

 
 

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