The Vulnerability of South Texas Pipelines

I have often said that opportunities along the U.S.–Mexico border are as vast as it landscape. However, those opportunities are not without risk. Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter’s most recent press release highlights the real threat that exists in South Texas [Porter Voices Concerns Over South Texas Pipelines Commissioner Visits Sites along Texas-Mexico Border].
Commissioner Porter is correct in his assessment that “the unfettered flow of illegal aliens complicates [oil and gas industry] efforts” to secure their people, property, and product and that “South Texas pipelines are vulnerable.” However, he is mistaken that the threat exists “because the federal government has abdicated its most basic function to protect our borders.” I do not fault him for not having the “desire to get into the border security debate,” but I do fault him for not encouraging all stakeholders to collaborate to address threats posed by criminal cartels.

The U.S. Border Patrol has over 18,000 Border Patrol agents stationed on the U.S.–Mexico border with over one-third of that force in South Texas. The core pillars of the “Border Patrol: 2012–2016 Strategic Plan” is to use information, integration, and rapid response to address all threats. Border Patrol relies on law enforcement partners and communities of interests (landowners and industry) to share information with Border Patrol to help identify and address threats through intelligence-driven operations. This is especially true in the Eagle Ford Shale. Industry has a huge and growing presence in the once sparsely populated region. Unfortunately, industry and Border Patrol are not effectively and proactively collaborating on suspicious activity. This has inadvertently aided the cartels in their illicit drug and human trafficking operations in the Eagle Ford Shale area.

Almost all the illegal activity along the U.S.–Mexico border is controlled by Mexico-based transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) whose leaders run their U.S. operations through U.S.-based associates. To impact the flow of aliens and drugs into the U.S. and through Eagle Ford Shale, all resources and efforts must be dedicated towards targeting TCOs to disrupt and degrade their organizations. This requires collaboration, exchange of information, integration of assets, and rapid response to threats.

As former head of a Border Patrol Sector in South Texas, I know first-hand Border Patrol’s capabilities and abilities. It was an honor to lead, train, and promote the next generation of Border Patrol leaders. Their resolve and can-do spirit is second-to-none. Yet, they know success is greater when there is unity of effort. Commissioner Porter, it is true that “border security has unfortunately made its way into [oil and gas industry] issues,” so let’s begin today to work together and work smarter to secure our border, to protect landowners’ property, and industry’s people and product.Should the government do more? Should landowners do more? Should industry do more? The answers are resounding. Yes. Yes. And, yes!