The General Accountability Office (GAO) said it has agreed to a request by five House lawmakers to investigate the potential for terrorist attacks on tankers transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in U.S. harbors, as well as the efforts by governmental and private sector entities to step up security.
The GAO effort will be coordinated and overseen by Magaret Wrightson, director of Homeland Security and Justice issues for the GAO, and Jim Wells, director of Natural Resource issues.
Requesting the GAO probe in late January were Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and House Homeland Security Committee; Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee; Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee; and Rep. Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee (see NGI, Feb. 7).
The House lawmakers' request came on the heels of a study that was conducted by Sandia National Laboratories of New Mexico and released in December 2004. It concluded that terrorist assaults on tankers transporting LNG into U.S. ports would likely burn people as far as a mile away from the site, as well as produce other extensive injuries and structural damage. The study was commissioned by the Department of Energy.
The lawmakers acknowledged that the federal government has taken a number of steps to avert potential terrorist attacks on LNG and LPG tankers, such as providing U.S. Coast Guard escorts to tankers entering U.S. waters, and requiring a 96-hour notice of arrival for all commercial vessels prior to entering U.S. ports with details about the crew, cargo and history of the vessel.
"This GAO study is the next step in ensuring that we are doing everything we should be doing to protect LNG terminals and other energy infrastructure from a terrorist attack," said Markey.
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