Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter, expressing concern about border security and nearby oil and gas pipelines, sent a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Friday suggesting the federal government is putting Texans in harm's way and asking what the agency is doing to protect pipeline infrastructure.
"The failure of the federal government to secure the U.S. border has resulted in a very dangerous environment for our pipeline inspectors, oilfield workers and ranchers along these routes. In addition, the unsecured border threatens our national security and our strategic oil and gas infrastructure," Porter wrote.
Porter said the border patrol is distracted by the influx of unaccompanied minors and areas where pipelines have become vulnerable to the extremist groups. Porter cited recent security reports from the border protection commission and reports that ISIS, the Islamic State of Iran and Syria, and Al Qaeda extremist groups that may be working with Mexican cartels.
"There are numerous tragic and gruesome reports of Mexican drug cartels using pipeline rights-of-ways to transport narcotics and illegal aliens," he wrote.
Mary Bell, a spokeswoman for Porter, said the concern for cartel activity and terrorist groups passing through the border had nothing to do with similar concerns Gov. Rick Perry mentioned at an event at the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. Thursday. Bell said Porter has been investigating the risk of these dangerous groups circumventing border patrol at oil pipelines for the past few weeks.
“For Texas pipelines you have to clear brush to build and to operate,” Bell said. “In these areas in South Texas these pipelines are being used as unpaved corridors for Mexican drugs cartels wanting to bring in illegal aliens or narcotics, along with what is in the letter that they could potentially be exploited by terrorists.”
The letter was sent in hopes of starting a dialogue between the state commission that regulates oil and gas pipelines and the federal agency overseeing border security to allocate resources to the potentially under protected pipelines.
“At the moment, we’re conducting an internal query to finalize the next steps, which will likely include more interviews and site visits to some of these vulnerable areas,” Porter wrote.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commission did not immediately comment on the matter.