By Laura Barron-Lopez - 06/04/14 01:10 PM EDT
The battle surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline that has launched the project to nationwide fame may be the exact reason terrorists plan an attack on it.
According to a report commissioned by NextGen Climate, the action group founded by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, the oil-sands pipeline is a prime target for terrorists.
Well, retired Command Master Chief SEAL David M. Cooper, an operative on the team that took down Osama Bin Laden, says that the newsworthiness of Keystone "increases its attractiveness as a target to terrorists."
Painting the pipeline as a terrorist threat is the latest in a slew of messaging tactics enlisted by Steyer, who is determined to bring down the pipeline, which he says will devastate the environment and contribute to climate change in the U.S.
Steyer has launched a full-throated campaign to put climate change on the map in midterm elections and help lawmakers that oppose the pipeline in their reelection bids.
But if the message on climate change doesn't make it through the noise surrounding the pipeline, the new report just might.
Cooper turns to an attack on a California electrical substation as an example of what a physical attack on the nation's energy infrastructure could look like.
Last year, the substation was hit with rounds of gunfire, signaling later in a federal report that a strike on crucial electric stations could result in massive power outages.
Cooper found when visiting pipelines in the U.S. that a handful of terrorists could use four pounds of explosives at each of three pump facilities "to create explosions that could trigger a catastrophic spill of 7.24 million gallons of diluted bitumen, which is highly toxic."
He adds that pipelines in general are "viable and attractive" targets in any war. An attack would also signal that the community, or nation at large, is not safe and neither is its economy, he said.
The fact that Keystone would transport oil sands crude is an added incentive, Cooper said.
Still, lawmakers and industry advocates for the pipeline argue that transporting crude via pipeline is far safer than by railcars.
The Keystone XL pipeline itself is required to meet roughly 60 special conditions to ensure its safety.
But Cooper notes in his report that safety precautions are not the same as security measures.
"As a veteran of more than 20 years in U.S. special operations forces operations, I was surprised to see how little discussion there has been of security of the proposed pipeline," Cooper writes.
Cooper gives no conclusion on whether or not the pipeline should be constructed, but adds that the administration and State Department should consider the security risks highlighted in the report.