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Senator warns of terrorist threat to oil rigs

By the CNN Wire Staff
Sen. Jim Webb of Virgina wants an assessment of how vulnerable offshore oil rigs are to attack.
Sen. Jim Webb of Virgina wants an assessment of how vulnerable offshore oil rigs are to attack.
  • Senator Webb of Virginia warns of terror threat to offshore oil rigs
  • Webb asks federal agencies to report on security measures
  • Webb says rigs must be protected, much like nuclear reactors

Washington (CNN) -- While the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has put accidental spills squarely in the national spotlight, one U.S. senator is warning of another possible threat: deliberate sabotage.

Democrat Jim Webb of Virginia is calling on the Obama administration to develop plans to safeguard offshore platforms from attack by terrorists.

The senator, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, made his case in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

"While Congress will continue to scrutinize BP and regulatory agencies, I write to urge you to also be vigilant against deliberate acts, such as an attack or sabotage, that could similarly devastate the region," Webb said in the letter, referring to the Gulf Coast. But he wants the security plans adopted for all U.S. coastal areas.

While there are no oil derricks off Virginia's coast, Webb, the state's senior senator, favors oil and gas exploration in Virginia waters. He also backs a controversial moratorium in deepwater drilling ordered by the Interior Department, until risks and safeguards can be better assessed.

Webb notes in the letter that the BP oil spill is the worst environmental disaster in the country's history. He said that, "With dozens of wells operating in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere, we must employ policies that mitigate all types of risk."

The senator said that a lack of vigilance on security issues "could leave the marine ecosystem, as well as certain areas of our national security, at great risk."

He's asking the federal agencies to assess how vulnerable offshore oil rigs are to attack and make recommendations to Congress for safeguarding them.

The senator points out in his letter that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires that nuclear reactors be able to withstand plane crashes and said similar standards should be considered for the oil and gas industry.

Webb's request for security measures comes as he prepares for a possible rematch in 2012 with Republican George Allen, the incumbent he narrowly defeated in 2006. Allen, a former governor, also supports oil and gas exploration off Virginia's coast.

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