Last Wednesday morning, August 10, two Enerfin Resources employees discovered a suspicious parcel attached to an the company’s natural gas pipeline near the intersection of Oklahoma Highway 27 and a county road near Okemah in Okfuskee County. That is about 70 miles east of Oklahoma City.
Suitably alarmed, the pair alerted the Okfuskee County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office subsequently contacted the FBI around 11 a.m. The apparent improvised explosive device was made of PVC piping laden with gunpowder and with an attached timer.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol bomb technicians and FBI special agent bomb technicians arrived and removed the device from the gas pipeline. After the IED was “rendered safe,” it was dispatched to an FBI laboratory for further evaluation.
KVUE News Daybreak reported the discovery. Wednesday evening the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from 40 year-old Daniel Wells Herriman, from Konawa, who confessed that he placed the IED on the pipeline. The Enerfin Resources pipeline is operated by Enogex, a subsidiary of Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. OG&E spokesman Brian Alford said that the company had not received any threats prior to the incident.
Special agent in charge of the FBI Oklahoma City Division, James E. Finch, announced Herriman’s arrest without incident on Friday. He was charged with attempting to destroy property used in interstate or foreign commerce. FBI agents searched Herriman’s home in Seminole County after he called 911 and they found bomb-making components similar to the device on the pipeline. Finch told journalists, “We take all threats to infrastructure seriously. Without a doubt, someone making a bomb threat to a gas pipeline is a serious threat.” He added that the device was a live explosive and could have done serious damage if it had detonated. “Thank goodness Mr. Herriman is not the greatest bomb-maker.” Finch said that FBI agents don’t know why the bomb was planted or why that specific location on the pipeline was chosen. “Only Mr. Herriman would know. It did not appear to be placed in any strategic location, but I am not an expert on pipelines.”
A criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma laid out the facts about the bomb discovery and its subsequent removal and neutralization. The affidavit noted that Herriman’s device had sealed white pipes that contained what appeared to be gunpowder, as well as a propane tank, two batteries, wires, broken light bulbs and a wind-up alarm clock.
The FBI on Sunday stated that Herriman provided a statement to investigators acknowledging manufacturing and placing the IED on the pipeline.
According to court records, Herriman has no criminal history. Herriman is currently being held in federal custody in the Muskogee County jail, and according to FBI Special Agent Clay Simmonds is due to appear in federal court in Muskogee Tuesday for a hearing starting at 10 a.m. Simmonds commented that Herriman is not a current or former Enerfin Resources employee, adding that initial investigations determined that Herriman is not tied to an organized terrorist group or environmental activists.
Herriman’s 73-year-old father Dan told Reuters news agency that his son had been undergoing treatment for years for mental health problems, which had recently grown worse. “He said he’s been hearing voices for the last couple of weeks. He was trying to get back to the Veteran’s Administration hospital.” He added that while his son had been taking medication to treat his mental illness, “He goes up and down.”
Nothing on Herriman’s Facebook gave any indication of his motives.
Enerfin Resources owns and operates natural gas pipelines, compression, processing plants and treatment facilities, as well as explores and produces oil and gas. The company owns midstream facilities in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. In east-central Oklahoma, Enerfin Resources operates five contiguous natural gas gathering systems, with pipelines spanning more than 1,700 miles between the Anadarko and Arkoma Basins. The pipelines are located in the Cherokee-Seminole Platform area, covering 12 counties, including Okfuskee County, where the bomb was found.
The case illustrates many unpleasant truths, among them that energy infrastructures are vulnerable and that, far from worrying obsessively about Muslim terrorists, our society is perfectly capable of generating unhappy people creating “threats to infrastructure,” to quote FBI agent Fitch. Herriman does not fit into any class of “terrorist” profiles. Finally, if there are more like Herriman out there, how will Enerfin Resources ensure security for more than 1,700 miles of pipelines?
The last word perhaps belongs to Herriman before he disappears into the legal maze. He told the 911 operator that he placed the IED on the pipeline, saying, “I set the bomb underneath the pipeline in Okemah. I’m schizo-effective. I hear voices, and I can’t control them no more. I need help.”
John C.K. Daly of OilPrice.com, exclusive to 24/7 Wall St.