An investigative look at cybersecurity in the oil and gas industry, an upswing in Houston murders, and the rise and fall of a pipeline protester – all in this week’s enterprise and investigative reporting.
Hacked: Energy industry’s controls provide an alluring target for cyberattacks
by Collin Eaton
As national attention focuses on Russian cyberattacks aimed at influencing the last presidential election, oil and gas companies face increasingly sophisticated hackers seeking to steal trade secrets and manipulate industrial sensors and operations.
Nowhere is the threat more consequential than in Houston and Southeast Texas, where the world’s most celebrated names in energy produce, refine and transport fossil fuels, including Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Phillips 66.
Photo: James Nielsen, Staff
A refinery along highway 225 Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, in Dear Park. ( James Nielsen / Houston Chronicle )
A refinery along highway 225 Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, in Dear…
The short and disruptive life of pipeline protester Pete Hefflin
By David Hunn
Photo: Courtesy Presidio County Sheriff’s Office
As Texas environmentalist Pete Hefflin talked about protecting sensitive natural resources for the future, he was hiding his past. This week, at a pipeline protest in Presidio County, sheriff’s deputies arrested and fingerprinted him and then confirmed they had in custody not Pete Hefflin, but fugitive Pedro Rabago Gutierrez. Gutierrez had a criminal record in California that included arrests for rape and drug dealing before fleeing the state at least 10 years ago as a wanted man. He’d been living as Hefflin in Houston.
His arrest stunned protesters at the camp, where he was the head of security, and sent the environmental groups into damage control mode.
Houston slayings on upswing, but experts say pace may slow
By John D. Harden
Javier Flores, 18, was shot to death after stepping between his mother and two robbers at a Subway. Eight-year-old De’Maree Adkins was slain Saturday; 21-year-old Oscar Reyes was gunned down in front of his pregnant wife a day later; and Jessica Lynn Mills, 29, was shot in front of her two young children by carjackers Monday night.
The string of high-profile slayings fuel the perception that violent crime may become the norm after two consecutive years with higher than average murder totals in Houston. Criminology experts acknowledge the trend appears alarming, but say it could be short-lived or a sign of something more enduring.
Caption: Keep track of fatal shootings, stabbings and hit-and-runs reported by HPD in 2017. Source: Houston Police Department
Houston police shooter linked to violent gang
By St. John Barned-Smith and Andrew Kragie
@stjbs and @AndrewKragie
The burglary suspect who shot two Houston police officers this week has been linked to a gang known as the 52 Hoover Crips, a criminal group that operates in northeast, south and east Houston. The gang – also known as 52 Hoova or Five-Deuce Hoova – is implicated in a series of smash-and-grabs to steal from ATM machines, the robbery of a Pasadena credit union and the rape of a 67-year-old woman over the past three years, police say.
UT halts Houston expansion after criticism from regents, lawmakers
By Lindsay Ellis
The University of Texas System is dropping its plan to develop a large swath of land near the Texas Medical Center, a project the University of Houston declared would undermine its ambitions to become a top-tier national university. The $200 million deal for the 300-acre property, which included abandoned oil wells, had attracted controversy from legislators after its purchase was announced in November 2015.
Lead levels threaten school water
By Shelby Webb and Kim McGuire
@shelbywebb and @byKimMcGuire
Students at Golfcrest Elementary must pack an extra necessity along with their pencils and notebooks: water bottles.
Testing in November revealed that the southeast Houston campus has the highest lead levels of all elementary schools in Houston ISD. In room 29’s water fountain, lead levels were as high as 1,160 parts per billion, far exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety thresholds. Such levels are high enough to cause kidney and brain damage, and to draw major concern from parents, doctors and advocates. HISD has been a leader in pushing for testing in Texas and in sharing results with parents.
Photo: Melissa Phillip, Staff