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Counter terrorism unit to foil energy terrorists

The federal government has set up a counter-terrorism unit in Alberta and one of its main jobs will be to help protect the energy industry from attacks by extremists.


June 7, 2012
by CANADIAN PRESS

EDMONTON: The federal government has set up a counter-terrorism unit in Alberta and one of its main jobs will be to help protect the energy industry from attacks by extremists.

The integrated national security enforcement team will be led by the RCMP and include officers from CSIS, the Edmonton and Calgary police forces and federal border patrol.

Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud said the key to effectively guarding the labyrinth of oil and natural gas wells, pipelines and refineries in Alberta will be to gather intelligence to prevent attacks before they happen.

“When we look at the booming economy of the province of Alberta over the years, one would be led to believe that there is an increased threat to the infrastructure,” Michaud said.

“We are basically looking at any individuals or groups that pose a threat to critical infrastructure, to our economy, to our safety that is based on either religious, political or ideological goals.”

There are about 400,000 kilometres of provincially regulated energy pipelines criss-crossing Alberta. That does not include federally regulated or smaller distribution pipelines.

The Energy Resources Conservation Board estimates there are 176,000 operating oil and natural gas wells dotting Alberta’s landscape. There are also eight oil sands mines, five upgraders and more than 250 in situ oil sands facilities.

The 32-member Alberta team is the latest to be announced by Ottawa since the 9-11 terrorist attacks almost 11 years ago. Other teams are already operating in Ontario, BC and Quebec.

Michaud said the terrorist threat in Canada could come more from people inside or outside the country.

He pointed to the bombings of Encana natural gas wells and pipelines in the Tomslake area of northeastern BC in 2008 and 2009 as an example of “domestic terrorism.” No one was injured in the six separate explosions, but the bombings showed how vulnerable energy infrastructure could be.

The RCMP say the unit will almost double the number of police working on counter-terrorism in Alberta, including looking for and investigating foreign terrorism suspects.

Alberta has been working for years with the RCMP and the energy industry to better protect critical infrastructure from threats and began developing its own counter-terrorism management plan in 2002.

Under the province’s plan, companies that operate facilities such as oil sands mines, pipelines, petrochemical plants and refineries must have policies to deal with and respond to threats.

© 2012 The Canadian Press