Is The Basin a Possible Target For a Terrorist Attack?

By Sylvia Gonzalez
NewsWest 9

PERMIAN BASIN - Out of the one million of barrels of oil that are produced daily in Texas, 514,000 are produced in West Texas. As you know, everyone that lives in this area has some ties to the oilfield industry, but what if all that producing came to a halt due to a terrorist attack. How would it impact the state or even country?

NewsWest 9 talked to a Senior FBI Agent who told her any attack targeting the Basin would be felt nationwide.

"It would because this is such a central location that you can't say the ramifications would only be felt here, it would pretty much be nationwide," Lamar Pruit, Senior Resident Agent with the FBI, said.

According to Agent Pruit, they have constant communication and training with different oil and gas companies to ensure the safety of the company and it's personnel for any type of incident including a terrorist attack.

"We have an active interaction with security for alot of the major oil companies and alot of the service companies as well. We go out, talk to them and we give them different security types of briefings," Pruit said.

Morris Burns has been in the oil and gas industry for over 30 years, he says unfortunately events such as the 9/11 attacks have caused oil and gas companies as well as refineries to be more vigilant when it comes to the people around their facilities.

"Oil companies for the last 10, 15 years have been getting more and more security conscious, now the doors are locked, you have to ring a bell, somebody checks to see who you are, they will carry you to wherever you are suppose to be," Burns said.

Agent Pruit says with people coming from all over to find a well paying job in the Basin, they have to take a harder look of who is coming here and what their intentions may be.

"We're actively pursuing intelligence as far the growth and what does that bring to our community and then are we seeing some elements. It does force us to take a harder look at what do we have in our own backyard," Pruit said.

She says it's everyone's responsibility to be aware of anything that might look out of the ordinary around oilfields. Some indicators of potential surveillance by terrorist include: persons possessing or observed using observation equipment such as cameras near the facility over an extended period. Also, persons discovered with maps, photos or diagrams with key facility components highlighted and persons parking or standing in the same area for no reason.

Burns says overall security measures have improved in the oil and gas industry and says they are better prepared for any type of situation including a terrorist attack.

"Who knows where they are going to strike next, nobody knows but I think that we are much more prepared for something like that now, then we were when 9/11 came," Burns said.

The advice from Agent Pruit and Burns to any viewer who sees something that may look out of place around an oil rig or refinery is to call the Sheriff's Department, both agree it's better to be safe than sorry.