Updating Partnerships and Guidance for Pipeline Protection

Today in Security: Updating Guidance for Pipeline Protection

​More than 2.7 million miles of pipeline transport natural gas, oil, and other hazardous liquids in the United States. The responsibility for guarding these pipelines is shared between pipeline operators and the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Transportation.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a plan in 2010 to coordinate pipeline security incident responses among government agencies and the private sector, but the plan has not been revised to reflect changes in three key areas: pipeline security threats, including cybersecurity; incident management policies; and DHS's terrorism alert system.

A June report​ from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommends that TSA update its planning documents—which have not been revised since their release in 2010—and provide greater assurance that pipeline stakeholders understand federal roles, responsibilities, and response protocols to an incident. 

​In addition, the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between TSA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has not been updated since its inception in 2006, so it does not reflect recent changes from subsequent presidential directives, the establishment of the Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA), or distinctions between TSA and PHSMA inspection operations.

The GAO made recommendations following its audit of pipeline security documents and agreements:

  • The TSA Administrator and PHMSA Administrator should work together to develop and implement a timeline for reviewing and updating (if appropriate) the 2006 MOU.

  • The TSA and PHMSA should revise the 2006 MOU to include a provision requiring periodic reviews of, and as appropriate, corresponding updates to the agreement.

  • The TSA should periodically review and, if appropriate, update the 2010 Pipeline Security and Incident Recovery Protocol Plan to ensure it reflects relevant changes in pipeline security threats, technology, federal law and policy, and any other emerging factors relevant to U.S. pipeline security.

After receiving these recommendations, DHS concurred and estimated that TSA will complete its first review by the end of 2019.