A bipartisan group of members of the House Homeland Security Committee introduced legislation Friday that aims to bolster security for pipelines following the gas shortage caused by the Colonial Pipeline shutdown.
The Pipeline Security Act was reintroduced by Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), John Katko (R-NY) along with the 12 members of the committee.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the federal agency responsible for protecting the US’s 2.7 million miles of pipelines. The bill would codify both TSA’s and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) role in pipeline security, require TSA to develop a personnel strategy for its Pipeline Security Section, require TSA to update its pipeline security guidelines. It would also seek to improve stakeholder engagement and congressional oversight over security.
"The recent ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline, which caused the shutdown of thousands of miles of gas pipeline along the East Coast, was just the latest example of why Congress must act swiftly to harden our critical infrastructure and bolster our cybersecurity capabilities," Cleaver said in a statement.
Katko added, "Right now, we need to focus on building existing capabilities and resources while ensuring federal roles and responsibilities are clear. DHS and DOT are co-Sector Risk Management Agencies (SRMAs) for transportation systems, including pipelines, and should continue to run point, with TSA, CISA, and the U.S. Coast Guard continuing to play important roles."
Colonial Pipeline, the 5,500-mile pipeline that transfers 45% of fuel used on the East Coast, went offline last Friday after it was hit with a ransomware attack. Multiple outlets have reported that Colonial paid a Russian-linked hacking group called DarkSide a $5 million ransom payment, breaking FBI guidance. So far, the White House has refused to comment on whether the ransom was paid or if it knew in advance.
Gas stations across the southeast saw their supplies run dry in the wake of the pipeline being forced offline, and customers at stations that did have gas were forced to wait in long lines. Drivers were seen not only filling up their tanks but bringing along containers to fill. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission had to issue a warning telling people not to fill plastic bags with gasoline.
About 68% of gas stations in North Carolina reported fuel outages, according to Gas Buddy. Roughly half of the gas stations in Georgia, South Carolina, Washington, D.C., and Virginia also reported outages.