Lynch: FBI asked to explore possible cyberintrusion at compressor

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – Investigators still have not determined what triggered an automatic shutdown and natural gas release at the Weymouth compressor station on Wednesday, and Congressman Stephen Lynch said the Federal Bureau of Investigation will be asked for assistance.

After a tour of the facility, whose operations are paused under federal orders prompted by two recent incidents, Lynch said that the FBI will need to be involved because the compressor is part of pipeline infrastructure that stretches into Canada.

The first emergency shutdown on Sept. 11 was implemented manually after a gasket failure, but the second one on Sept. 30 occurred automatically, and the causes behind it remain unclear.

“In our discussions with the agencies in Washington, D.C., they seem to think — and this was mentioned on our tour a little earlier — they seem to think it was electronic or electrical in nature,” Lynch said at a press conference, according to audio provided by his office. “The switching system here is a network system, so because this is an international pipeline and because of the national security implications, the FBI has been asked to take a look at any possible cyberintrusion that might have triggered that release.”

The congressman said his office has not had any conversations with the FBI, stressing that “there aren’t a lot of answers right now.”

Energy giant Enbridge had been planning to place the controversial project into service by Thursday, but after two emergency shutdowns in less than three weeks released a combined 444,000 cubic feet of natural gas into the air, the company halted operations at the site.

The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ordered Enbridge to keep the facility offline until the company meets all the conditions laid out in a corrective action order, including a root cause analysis of both incidents.

In the order issued Thursday, PHMSA Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety Alan Mayberry wrote that continued operation without immediate fixes “would be hazardous to life, property, or the environment.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Sept. 24 — after the first shutdown and before the second — approved Enbridge’s request to start service by Oct. 1.

Lynch and a group of Massachusetts lawmakers and local officials who represent the region toured the site on Friday.

Elected leaders and community groups have vocally opposed the project for years, unsuccessfully calling for Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration to block permits because of the site’s location near densely populated neighborhoods and because of its potential health and environmental impacts.

“There’s very little margin for error here because of the proximity of so many homes, lots of children in this area,” Lynch said. “The consequences could be dire if the worst happens here.”

The group also received a briefing, according to company spokesperson Max Bergeron.

“While initial indications are there were no conditions which would have necessitated an (emergency shutdown) on September 30, once activated, the (emergency shutdown) system operated as designed and safely isolated the station and vented the natural gas in a controlled manner,” Bergeron said in an email. “As we continue to gather additional information as part of a detailed review process, we have found no issues which would affect the safety of the station.”

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