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US energy firms and government officials should be more concerned with physically protecting domestic facilities from attacks than lining up supplies, former Central Intelligence Agency Director R. James Woolsey maintained.
Electric power generation and distribution systems look particularly vulnerable, Woolsey said in wide-ranging remarks July 7 at Johns Hopkins University’s School for Advanced International Studies.
But oil and gas facilities also could be targets, with refineries at greater risk than pipelines and production operations, said Woolsey, who was CIA director during the Clinton administration and now is a venture partner with Lux Capital management.
He said federal and local officials became concerned following an incident on Apr. 16—a day after the Boston Marathon bombings—where several individuals in San Jose, Calif., were observed shooting at power pole transformers in the middle of the night.
Authorities there later found that other people had lifted a manhole cover and reached telephone landlines beneath a street at about the same time, Woolsey said. “These apparently weren’t teenagers who had grabbed their fathers’ rifles for some late night fun,” he added. “They had something more serious in mind.”
Of course, the same government that delays a crude oil pipeline in favor of less safe rail tank cars is carefully monitoring this threat . . . .
Refineries are complex plants, however, and are not all that compact, so they are harder targets than you might think.