Tuesday, August 16, 2011

NTSB Meeting – San Bruno Pipeline Fire

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced in today’s Federal Register (76 FR 50759) that it would be holding a meeting on August 30, 2011 to review its report on the September 9, 2010 natural gas pipeline rupture and fire in San Bruno, CA. The meeting in Washington, DC will be open to the public and may be viewed on-line on the NTSB web site.

This incident is the poster child for pipeline safety that is driving provisions for many of the pipeline safety bills that are currently pending in Congress. Specific topics that might be expected to come up in this meeting include:

• Control system issues;
• Pipeline integrity management;
• Pipeline right-of-way management;
• Emergency response planning;
• Emergency response notification;
• Pipeline pressure management; and
• The use of automatic shut-off controls.

The first issue may be of significant interest to multiple communities that read this blog. Joe Weiss continues to identify this incident as a control system cyber incident that could have ICS security implications. Neither Joe nor anyone else I have read or talked to has even hinted that they thought that this was a result of a deliberate attack on a control system. Instead many people have expressed concerns that control system shortcomings identified in this incident could be exploited in a possible attack on pipelines. The expected call for the expanded use of automated shutoff valves would extend the range of the possible cyber-attacks on pipelines.

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