A commercial manufacturing group is asking Congress to authorize FERC to strengthen the physical and cyber security requirements of pipelines, similar to the rules applied to the power grid.
Pointing to the attack on colonial pipelines as a “wake-up call” for lawmakers, the American Industrial Energy Consumers (IECA) wrote in letters to the Senate and House of Representatives that lawmakers should Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority to monitor reliability and establish mandatory requirements to protect natural gas pipelines from threats.
The IECA said the pipes should have federal oversight of comparable reliability to the electrical infrastructure.
“Unlike electricity, there are no mandatory standards and there is only very limited federal oversight of the reliability of natural gas pipelines,” the IECA said.
The group, which in the past has questioned U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, highlighted what it described as a lack of federal oversight to ensure adequate pipeline capacity during periods of peak demand.
“In fact, no federal agency has the responsibility to monitor how fast the pipes operate to determine if there is enough capacity,” the group told lawmakers. “LNG exporters have a firm pipeline capacity to ensure that gas flows to export facilities. Its greatest demand is in winter. Nobody knows how much capacity there is to supply power generation, owners and manufacturers to the maximum demand ”.
Manufacturers said they expect tighter federal oversight of pipe safety to lead to higher downstream costs.
“As very large energy consumers, we understand that the implementation of mandatory physical and safety requirements will increase the costs that will be passed on to us,” the IECA wrote. “However, a successful attack could close tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities and cost tens of millions of dollars daily for each facility. The economic damage could be staggering. “
The IECA letter to Congress comes in the wake of the ransomware attack that shut down the Colonial Refined Products pipeline for days and caused fuel shortages on the east coast.
For its part, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House recently took steps to formalize the responsibilities of federal agencies to ensure the safety of the pipes.
Meanwhile, FERC President Richard Glick last week called for the establishment of mandatory cybersecurity standards for natural gas, oil and hazardous liquids pipelines.
“It’s time to set mandatory pipeline cybersecurity standards similar to those applicable to the electricity sector,” Glick said. “Simply encouraging pipelines to voluntarily adopt best practices is an inadequate response to the growing number and sophistication of malevolent cyber actors.”