January 2021, Vol. 248, No. 1

Executive Profile

TPA’s Cannon Tackles Coronavirus, Safety Issues

In his role as president of the Texas Pipeline Association (TPA), Thure Cannon spearheads the organization’s advocacy on issues related to pipeline safety, environmental regulations, taxation and legislation for the state’s pipeline industry.  

In this capacity, he and his staff are the primary resource for information to member companies of what is among the most influential midstream organization in the United States. TPA member companies work in partnership with state and federal regulatory agencies to ensure full compliance and safety.  

Prior to joining TPA in 2010, Cannon worked in the Texas Legislature for over 12 years serving as chief of staff for a state representative. Before his legislative tenure, Cannon consulted on numerous political campaigns and interned for members of the Texas House and Texas Senate.  

Pipeline & Gas Journal recently had the opportunity to ask Cannon about new safety issues brought about by the coronavirus and post-election challenges to future pipeline projects. 

P&GJ: What would you consider your top priority in your role as president of the TPA?  

Thure CannonMy top priority this year is to ensure that my member companies have the tools they need to overcome some of the major challenges they faced in 2020.  

This includes the COVID-19 pandemic, which suppressed demand, and the price wars between Saudi Arabia and Russia, which facilitated a dramatic fall in the price of oil. Both have had a profound effect on the midstream industry here in Texas and the nation.   

In the year ahead, we will prepare for recovery, working closely with Texas regulators, elected officials and other stakeholders, including our sister associations here in Texas.  

P&GJ: How has the Association helped its membership to respond to new safety issues brought about by the coronavirus?  

CannonWhen the pandemic hit early in 2020, Texas midstream member companies quickly realized that they needed to not only protect their people, but also protect their operations, so that we could continue delivering the products that the country needed the most.  

The federal government agreed. In the guidance it issued specifically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) – which is a department of Homeland Security – advised that the energy industry is part of the critical infrastructure workforce, including pipelines and related facilities.   

During the pandemic, Texas pipeline companies have taken the necessary precautions to protect their industry employees and to avoid the spread of the disease. This includes incorporating work-at-home policies when possible and encouraging workers to follow the hygiene habits recommended by healthcare professionals and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   

TPA and the industry continue to keep in close contact with state and federal regulators to ensure the continued safety and reliability of the Texas pipeline infrastructure as we deliver the hydrocarbons – such as crude oil, petroleum products and natural gas – that fuel our homes and businesses.   

In the months ahead, as groups of Americans receive the vaccine, we will track closely how it will be implemented to America’s critical workforce, including pipeline control room operators, who use sophisticated computerized equipment to continuously monitor and control pipeline activities for the hundreds of thousands of pipelines covering vast swaths of the state.   

P&GJAside from the coronavirus, what do your members see as the biggest challenges facing them as far as new pipelines going forward?  

CannonOnce the virus is relatively under control, we don’t know if employers will return their workforce to physical buildings, as well as resume business travel to the degree it was before the pandemic. These yet-to-be-determined societal changes will affect demand for the hydrocarbons that our member companies deliver every day through pipelines.   

Another big challenge is the more aggressive and sophisticated use of local and state ordinances and regulations, as well as lawsuits, that try to stop new infrastructure from being built. Constructing a pipeline is a very long and complicated process, with many stakeholders and a myriad of regulatory requirements. These new tactics make it even longer and more costly as we work diligently to build this much-needed infrastructure.  

P&GJDo you see any pending or recent regulatory changes that might create new challenges for midstream companies?  

Cannon: When the 87th Texas Legislature meets in 2021, we know the issue of eminent domain will come up again. As in past sessions, TPA and its industry partners have worked hard to identify areas of agreement to balance the rights of property owners with the development of vital infrastructure projects critical to the economic development of the state. These projects include those that directly benefit the public, such as oil and natural gas pipelines, water pipelines, roads and electric lines.   

At the federal level, it’s too early to tell what regulatory challenges midstream companies may face. But we do know that the safest and most efficient way to deliver the essential hydrocarbon materials Americans rely on is through pipelines, which safely delivered 99.999% of products transported annually.    

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