June 20, 2018 Read More →

Oil and gas industry: Coal plants no more secure than pipelines

Houston Chronicle:

More than 300,000 miles of natural gas transmission lines crisscross the United States, fueling electricity and industrial plants and heating homes, while also providing an alluring target for hackers looking to disrupt the American economy. Now those pipelines are at the center of a debate in Washington about the future of the power grid, as Energy Secretary Rick Perry argues that an increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threat makes relying on natural gas to the exclusion of coal and nuclear plants a disaster waiting to happen.

“You have a greater reliance on natural gas than you’ve ever had before,” Bruce Walker, assistant secretary of electricity and energy reliability, said in an interview. “Because of the interdependence on the gas infrastructure, if you take out a pipeline you can also take out 10 to 15 [power] generators.”

The administration’s concern about cybersecurity comes as the White House considers next steps in its bid to halt the closure of coal and nuclear power plants, which have come under increasing economic pressure from the huge glut of cheap gas coming out of shale fields in Texas and other states, as well as increasingly efficient renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

That has set the administration and Perry in direct conflict with natural gas producers, many of whom believe the administration is raising the issue of cyber security of gas pipelines to justify bailing out a coal sector that President Donald Trump has promised to revive.

Lobbyists for oil and gas companies are fighting to head off such action, arguing in meetings on Capitol Hill that pipelines are as well protected from cyber threats as any U.S. industry and the administration’s talking points amount to another attempt to bail out the coal sector.

“To single out gas infrastructure, it misses the point. All the energy sector is being targeted by bad actors,” said Todd Snitchler, director of market development at the American Petroleum Institute. “The oil and gas industry takes our cybersecurity very seriously. It’s being managed all the way up to the board level.”

More: Is focus on pipeline cyber security ruse to prop up coal?

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