Pipeline Security: An Overview of Federal Activities and Current Policy Issues [Updated February 5, 2004]   [open pdf - 162KB]

While substantial investment has been made in pipeline security, U.S. pipelines are inherently vulnerable to the possibility of terror attacks because of their number and dispersion. Congress is examining the adequacy of federal pipeline security efforts. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is the lead federal agency for security in all modes of transportation, including pipelines. The Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), within the Department of Transportation (DOT), is the lead federal regulator of pipeline safety. There are questions about the appropriate division of responsibility between the agencies and about the resources they will have for mandated security activities. As the lead agency for pipeline security, TSA expects pipeline operators to maintain security plans based on security guidance initially circulated in 2002. TSA also plans to issue pipeline security regulations. In 2003, TSA inspected 24 of the largest 25-30 and found that nearly all of these operators had met or exceeded minimum security guidelines. The agencies have no formal cooperative agreement defining responsibilities and assert that efforts to promote U.S. pipeline security are on the right track. Nonetheless, TSA's current funding for pipeline security will provide only limited capability for inspections and enforcement of any future regulations. In addition to appropriations issues, Congress is considering several policy concerns: Operators believe they need more specific federal threat information to improve security decisions. Many operators also believe they need clear and stable definitions of what constitutes a "critical" asset. Finally, operators are concerned about potentially redundant, conflicting regulatory regimes under TSA and the OPS.

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CRS Report for Congress, RL31990
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