New database provides public record of infrastructure attacks

By Staff | October 31, 2017

Violent acts aimed at shutting down energy infrastructure will now be cataloged in a publicly accessible database maintained by the Energy Builders, an arm of the Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance (EEIA).

The Energy Infrastructure Incident Reporting Center will track criminal attacks on critical energy infrastructure. It comes on the heels of a letter from more than 80 members of Congress to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressing concern about the rise in infrastructure attacks.

Toby Mack, EEIA president and CEO, spoke to North American Shale Magazine about the origins of the organization and what it hopes to accomplish with the reporting center and database.

Mack has headed the EEIA since its founding in 2013. Before that, he was president and CEO of the Associated Equipment Distributors, an international trade association representing companies supplying heavy equipment and related products and services to the construction, energy, mining and forestry industries in North America.

What are the origins of the EEIA and what does it do?

This organization really is a creature of the shale revolution. As we saw that unfold in the equipment world, it drove tremendous additional demand for heavy machinery to develop the infrastructure, facilitate the access and create all the structures and facilities needed for energy production, particularly from shale.

One of the things we saw with the shale oil and gas industry is that it has a tremendous supply chain which spans about 60 different industries. Typically, a trade organization will represent only one industry. But with so many different and diverse stakeholders in energy operations, it was imperative that there was an organization to span the entire supply chain and speak with a voice that represents that entire spectrum of economic activity. That’s why EEIA was created. It now represents most of the major industries that are vested in shale energy operations.

Why did the EEIA decide that Energy Infrastructure Incident Reporting Center and database were necessary?

We’re very concerned about the increasing incidents of illegal and sometimes violent acts against energy infrastructure—oil and gas pipeline infrastructure particularly. The purpose of the database is to collect all of that information in one place and archive it so that anybody interested in knowing more about it can see the types, the frequency and the locations of those kinds of acts of violence against this infrastructure. It’s useful to catalog those things so that when something arises, becomes a story for a few days and then fades away, it’s not completely forgotten.

Is this a record that anybody can access to see the history of actions against energy infrastructure?

Yes, and it’s open to the public. It’s out there on our Energy Builders website, available for all to review. It also allows visitors to submit anything that they may be aware of that happens in their area. It doesn’t go directly into the database because we want to vet the submission and make sure that it’s factual and correct. If it rises to the level that we think deserves to be recorded, we would then enter the details into the database.

What’s the reaction been from the oil and gas industry?

We just unveiled it last week. We’re still fielding questions and comments. It did get a good bit of exposure and we believe it will continue to. Any time an incident occurs that we think belongs in this archive, it should create more visibility. It puts a current instance in context with the history. We think it will help people understand the seriousness of these incidents, who’s doing them and what the danger is to public health, safety and the potential environmental damage.

What’s your organization’s goal for how this database is used and who uses it?

We hope it helps people understand the extent of the threat. If we can publish information that raises the awareness of the dangers of these kinds of activities, then we will have done a good job of communicating the damages and dangers that could occur. We just want to make sure these stories don’t get lost and that people can look and see trends and occurrences. One of the reasons for our database is to keep those stories out there. Once they’re posted in a publicly accessed archive, people running searches trying to find information will arrive at a location where it’s all there for them to see.

Did the controversy surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline show industry that it needed to do a better job responding to this issue?

More than anything, I think what it succeeded in doing was giving industry a wakeup call. Spontaneously, a bunch of companies that are natural competitors in the marketplace said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a collective problem here.’ One of the issues we dealt with early on was to get folks in the construction and supply and materials industries to understand that they need to fight for all pipelines. Even though it may not end up being their project, they still need to get out on the front lines and fight for them because it might be their project. Even if it isn’t, if the opposition can take down a project, it puts wind in their sails and gives them the narrative to go after the next project. If this project goes down, yours might be next. Everybody needs to get out on the front lines on this thing—whether or not they’re a stakeholder.