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A Federal Response to Navy SEAL's 'Threat Assessment' of Keystone XL

Welders working on a joint during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Okla.
Welders working on a joint during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Okla.Photograph by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Last week we reported on a former Navy SEAL chief named David Cooper who was hired by the nonprofit group NextGen Climate to determine how vulnerable the controversial final leg of the Keystone pipeline network might be to terrorism. In a 14-page report, Cooper determined that it would be “easy to execute a catastrophic attack” on the fourth segment of the pipeline system, based on a mock attack he carried out on the completed Keystone I, or Gulf Coast Pipeline, which came online in January. He went on to describe multiple scenarios for spills ranging from 1.02 to 7.24 million gallons of diluted bitumen, the viscous, toxic, low quality oil derived from Alberta’s tar sands.

Because the report was embargoed until right before its release on Wednesday, it was difficult to get a timely official response to the report from regulators. Both the Department of Homeland Security and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration asked to see the document but did not comment for the record. While the Transportation Security Administration declined to discuss Cooper’s “most likely” or “worst case” scenarios, on Monday the TSA did provide written replies to two points the former Navy SEAL raised.