Working to keep pipelines secure

Source: Canton Repository

CANTON Regional first responders gathered Tuesday at the Stark County Emergency Management Agency to discuss how to safeguard pipelines and respond to emergencies with them.

The meeting was timely given the ongoing construction of Energy Transfer’s Rover Pipeline in Stark, Carroll and Tuscarawas counties.

Class attendees included law-enforcement officers, firefighters, pipeline company workers, health department staff, Red Cross representatives and emergency planners.

Stark County is crossed by miles of natural gas and liquids pipelines and is home to Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s Canton refinery and a large natural-gas storage field in Jackson Township.

More pipelines are coming. Energy Transfer is building the interstate Rover Pipeline to ship natural gas produced by Utica and Marcellus shale wells.

In another project, NEXUS Gas Transmission wants to cross northern Stark County and southern Summit County with its own natural-gas pipeline. That interstate project is awaiting federal approval.

Vulnerable asset

The pipeline-security course was developed by the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium, an organization established by Congress and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Duane Jones, security director for Kinder Morgan, a pipeline company with assets in Ohio and across North America, conducted the class.

More than 3,000 companies operate more than 2.5 million miles of pipelines in the United States. Those pipelines carry natural gas, gasoline, crude oil and other products.

The federal government has guidelines for pipeline security, but the guidelines are voluntary.

Jones said it was vital for pipeline companies to have security plans in place and be in regular contact with authorities at the local and federal levels.

Also, local emergency forces should know how to find the pipelines in their jurisdictions, know who operates them and know whom to contact in an emergency, Jones said.

Although safer than trains or trucks when transporting natural gas and hazardous liquids, pipelines are still vulnerable, Jones said. They carry volatile substances, are often located in remote, hard-to-secure areas and are critical to the function of the economy.

A pipeline failure can kill people and damage property and the environment.

Threats to pipelines include terrorists, thieves, vandals, protestors, disgruntled workers, computer hackers and landowners who dig in a right-of-way without checking the location of the pipeline, Jones said.

Poor maintenance, outdated pipeline materials and natural forces, such as a flood, also can cause pipelines to fail.

“The threats are out there,” Jones said.

This was the second time the county Emergency Management Agency had hosted a pipeline-security course since 2015.

Agency planner Steven P. Foss said Rover’s construction generated interest in the course, which was a way to get various stakeholders together in the same room.

“It’s always good to have a refresher,” Foss said.