Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

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Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by raptor2 » Tue Dec 29, 2020 6:37 pm

It may get a bit chilly in Aspen for some people tonight.

https://www.theblaze.com/news/colorado- ... s-services
Thousands of residents in Aspen, Colorado, are without heat after what authorities say was an "intentional attack" on local gas service.


According to a Tuesday report from ABC News, the temperature in Aspen is expected to fall to just 2 degrees Tuesday night.

What are the details?
Authorities say that the attack — "coordinated acts of vandalism" — took place Saturday night and impacted at least three area Black Hills Energy locations.

The outlet reported, "At one of the targeted sites, police said they found the words 'Earth first' scrawled, and investigators were looking into whether the self-described 'radical environmental group' Earth First! was involved."

As work crews continued to restore gas service across the city, authorities began handing out electric-powered space heaters to residents without heat service on Tuesday as a storm is expected to roll in this week and dump an additional eight inches of snow on the region.

Work crews were forced to visit each gas meter on an individual basis, manually turn them off, and relight pilot lights in order to restore services. It wasn't just homes impacted by the attack — authorities said that businesses including area hotels and restaurants were forced to close their doors following the apparent sabotage.

In a statement, Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said that the vandals appear to have had "some familiarity" with the natural gas line system.
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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by boskone » Tue Dec 29, 2020 7:20 pm

Well, if it was this "Earth First" group, they've found a great way to lose any credibility with the general populace.

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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by Blast » Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:03 pm

boskone wrote:
Tue Dec 29, 2020 7:20 pm
Well, if it was this "Earth First" group, they've found a great way to lose any credibility with the general populace.
Agreed. This would be dumb, even by their standards...but then they also used to burn down resorts so maybe it really is a group of E1 knuckleheads. Kind of like those two ladies who kept trying to, and finally succeeded in, derailing trains.
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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by raptor2 » Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:05 pm

More info. This link has a map to the affected area.
https://www.aspentimes.com/news/investi ... o-tuesday/
At Monday’s virtual news conference, Linn said the situation with the gas lines first came to Black Hills’ attention about 8:30 p.m. Saturday when the company was notified there was no gas pressure at a location in Aspen. Then, just before 11 p.m., a city resident called police to report hearing “uncommon sounds” from a natural gas station near the resident’s home.

“They said it might be a gas leak,” Linn said.

Aspen police officers responded to the location along with Black Hills employees and “recognized it had been physically tampered with,” he said. Not long after, Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies responded to a call at a natural gas station outside the city limits in the county. Details about that incident were not available Monday, though Linn said the “Earth First!” graffiti was written on a pipe at the station in the county.

A total of three locations were vandalized, one in the city and two in the county, Linn said. At two locations, the gas valves were not located in buildings, while the third was housed inside a building that was burglarized, he said. All had “security measures” in place that were tampered with.

“Locks were defeated,” Linn said.

All three locations were hit around the same time, he said, though it was not clear Monday how many people were involved or why Aspen was targeted. Anyone with information about the vandalism should call the Aspen Police Department at 970-920-5400 and follow the prompts to report it.

Black Hills technicians were initially able to turn the gas valves back on Saturday night, but some residences had trouble reviving gas service, he said. Black Hills officials then determined Sunday night that the system had to be shut down manually house by house, tested and re-pressurized and then manually, house by house rebooted again, he said.

Police and deputies were able to gather physical evidence from the scenes, including at least one set of footprints in the snow leading up to one location, Linn said. Cameras were not installed at the three locations.

The FBI, which has a critical infrastructure department, was working with local detectives on the incidents, Linn said. In addition, local detectives are working with state law enforcement officials to look back and see if there were any clues left before the gas disruption indicating it was going to happen.

The fact that a person or persons struck more than one gas transfer site appears to point to an intentional attack on just the city of Aspen during what is traditionally the busiest week of the year.

“It’s almost, to me, an act of terrorism,” said Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper, who was without heat Monday at her Smuggler Mountain-area home. “It’s trying to destroy a mountain community at the height of the holiday season. This wasn’t a national gas glitch. This was a purposeful act.

“Someone is looking to make a statement of some kind.”

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Monday he didn’t think the disruption of gas service was an attack.

“I know that word has been thrown around a lot,” he said. “It’s not a word I would use.”

Instead, he characterized it as “an intentional act” to disrupt gas service to Aspen.

Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock also said Monday he wasn’t ready to characterize the gas outage as an “attack” because it needed more investigation. However, if it was vandalism, the consequences — whether intentional or unintentional — were hurting people and businesses already reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is having a major impact on people’s lives,” Peacock said. “If it was an intentional act — that’s unbelievable.”

Linn said city officials normally would be trying to organize a warming station at a local gymnasium or other location, but COVID-19 protocols didn’t allow such actions.

Aspen Valley Hospital wasn’t affected by the outage, said Gabe Muething, director of Aspen Ambulance. The Pitkin County Jail, however, was affected and inmates were making do Monday with electric space heaters, DiSalvo said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the locations of the vandalism occurred at one location in Aspen and two locations in Pitkin County.

This is not a disaster but it does show how easy it is to disrupt services for a large group of people.

Note the biggest time consumer here is that the utility will go house to house lighting pilot lights. If you have gas powered equipment (that does not use piezoelectric igniters) you should make sure you know how to do this. It is not hard, a PITA yes, but not difficult.
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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by CrossCut » Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:19 pm

Maybe we need a "Infrastructure attacks + Monkeywrenching in 2020/2021" thread to consolidate this type of activity in a single place? Unlike the the recent train derailments and the Nashville AT&T explosion this one wasn't particularly destructive nor life threating, but I expect to see many more events like these in the coming months considering the COVID restriction impacts to small business owners, vaccine distribution and mandates (maybe), and everything related to the election and the new administration (maybe).
raptor2 wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:05 pm

This is not a disaster but it does show how easy it is to disrupt services for a large group of people.

Note the biggest time consumer here is that the utility will go house to house lighting pilot lights. If you have gas powered equipment (that does not use piezoelectric igniters) you should make sure you know how to do this. It is not hard, a PITA yes, but not difficult.
Right, couldn't agree more, and was just writing this when I saw your post:

As to this incident, this was probably the most distressing part to me, "Work crews were forced to visit each gas meter on an individual basis, manually turn them off, and relight pilot lights in order to restore services". I'm sure it's for liability purposes, but sad that the majority of property owners wouldn't be expected to know how to shut off their own gas service and be trustworthy enough to leave them off until the system was purged and repressurized and told they could turn them back on. Even worse, that they "reminded customers that they should not attempt to relight appliances on their own." (as reported here: https://www.aspentimes.com/news/investi ... o-tuesday/).

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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by woodsghost » Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:45 pm

boskone wrote:
Tue Dec 29, 2020 7:20 pm
Well, if it was this "Earth First" group, they've found a great way to lose any credibility with the general populace.
This depends on who your audience is. If the audience is not "the general populace" but instead "like minded and inclined individuals" then I'd say they succeeded.

You get enough like minded people together, you commit enough acts of ...."disruption"... and you have the attention of people who make laws.

Also, if you can consistently make NG an unreliable means of heating, people will drift towards other, less disrupted means of heating and the group is successful (if those other means are also considered more eco friendly).
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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by NT2C » Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:59 pm

raptor2 wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:05 pm
Note the biggest time consumer here is that the utility will go house to house lighting pilot lights. If you have gas powered equipment (that does not use piezoelectric igniters) you should make sure you know how to do this. It is not hard, a PITA yes, but not difficult.
And it also won't matter. Federal regulations require a gas utility employee to relight all pilot lights otherwise the gas must then be turned off at the meter and the service locked.
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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by NT2C » Wed Dec 30, 2020 1:02 pm

CrossCut wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:19 pm
Right, couldn't agree more, and was just writing this when I saw your post:

As to this incident, this was probably the most distressing part to me, "Work crews were forced to visit each gas meter on an individual basis, manually turn them off, and relight pilot lights in order to restore services". I'm sure it's for liability purposes, but sad that the majority of property owners wouldn't be expected to know how to shut off their own gas service and be trustworthy enough to leave them off until the system was purged and repressurized and told they could turn them back on. Even worse, that they "reminded customers that they should not attempt to relight appliances on their own." (as reported here: https://www.aspentimes.com/news/investi ... o-tuesday/).
There's a Federal regulation that requires it. If the utility doesn't do this they lose any liability protections they have and are subject to some serious fines.
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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by raptor2 » Wed Dec 30, 2020 1:22 pm

woodsghost wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:45 pm
Also, if you can consistently make NG an unreliable means of heating, people will drift towards other, less disrupted means of heating and the group is successful (if those other means are also considered more eco friendly).
That is an interesting point.

I use NG for heating (HVAC,hot water, Stove & dryer) and I am quite used to the economy and convenience of it. It is a huge money saver for hot water heaters.

However the other day I was lectured by someone who considers NG into homes to be huge safety as well as an environmental negative. He went on and on about the "many gas explosions that occur in homes each year" and how unsafe and bad environmentally NG was as a fuel for home use.

I listened politely for a while but when the opportunity presented itself I asked him if he had ever examined and compared the occurrence of electric space heater fires, electrical fires & accidental electrocutions to those same type of NG incidents. There was crickets.

There is clearly a campaign to discredit NG. This type of incident is likely due to such activity.
CrossCut wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:19 pm
Maybe we need a "Infrastructure attacks + Monkeywrenching in 2020/2021" thread to consolidate this type of activity in a single place? Unlike the the recent train derailments and the Nashville AT&T explosion this one wasn't particularly destructive nor life threating, but I expect to see many more events like these in the coming months considering the COVID restriction impacts to small business owners, vaccine distribution and mandates (maybe), and everything related to the election and the new administration (maybe).
That is a good point I will discuss it with the other Mods.
CrossCut wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:19 pm
raptor2 wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:05 pm

This is not a disaster but it does show how easy it is to disrupt services for a large group of people.

Note the biggest time consumer here is that the utility will go house to house lighting pilot lights. If you have gas powered equipment (that does not use piezoelectric igniters) you should make sure you know how to do this. It is not hard, a PITA yes, but not difficult.
Right, couldn't agree more, and was just writing this when I saw your post:

As to this incident, this was probably the most distressing part to me, "Work crews were forced to visit each gas meter on an individual basis, manually turn them off, and relight pilot lights in order to restore services". I'm sure it's for liability purposes, but sad that the majority of property owners wouldn't be expected to know how to shut off their own gas service and be trustworthy enough to leave them off until the system was purged and repressurized and told they could turn them back on. Even worse, that they "reminded customers that they should not attempt to relight appliances on their own." (as reported here: https://www.aspentimes.com/news/investi ... o-tuesday/).
Yes I agree.
When there is an outage like this AND there are pilot lights that are extinguished there is a possibility of natural gas coming out of of the pilot light burner in sufficient quantity to cause issues. Gas outages are not frequent but if you do lose gas service the main valve should be turned off until service is restored. In this case the utility may have significant liability if something happens.

That said nothing would prevent a ZS'er from dealing with his/her own pilot lights.
At your home a good ZS'er will know where and how to use the Main electrical shutoff (if you have a fire, trip that breaker and leave), the main water valve shut off (if the washing machine overflows quickly close that valve and only then go get a mop), the main NG shut off valve(if you have a fire and NG service turn off the main NG valve when you trip the breaker and then leave.)
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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by NT2C » Wed Dec 30, 2020 1:52 pm

raptor2 wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 1:22 pm
That said nothing would prevent a ZS'er from dealing with his/her own pilot lights.
At your home a good ZS'er will know where and how to use the Main electrical shutoff (if you have a fire, trip that breaker and leave), the main water valve shut off (if the washing machine overflows quickly close that valve and only then go get a mop), the main NG shut off valve(if you have a fire and NG service turn off the main NG valve when you trip the breaker and then leave.)
It has been my experience through 40+ years of construction work that such shut-off valves are often in locations that are very difficult to get to. For example, my current house has it in the crawlspace underneath the house in a spot that requires a thin person and a literal belly crawl the last 15" to reach it. This is why I used to carry what's known as a "curb key" in the ttade. It's usually a long piece of steel rod, about 40" long, with a T handle on one end and a small U shaped piece on the other. You use this to turn off the water ahead of the meter, which is usually located near the edge of the road and about 3" underground with a small cover plate. (Vise Grips will work to open the cover most of the time)

I had a funny incident when I was living in Baltimore. I got an emergency call from the boyfriend of my best client's sister (my best client was a bank VP and had expensive tastes in cabinets and floors, all of which I did custom for him). It seems he was trying to hang a shelf in the laundry room of their townhome and hit a water pipe in the wall, and couldn't get to the water valve to shut it off because it was in the crawlspace under the house... reached through a floor hatch that the full washing machine was sitting on top of. Yeah, I went over and shut it off at the meter for him, opened the wall and fixed the pipe (perfectly centered hole in the copper line) for him.

One word of caution, some localities and utility companies have regs that prohibit unlicensed persons from manipulating such valves, so I'm in no way advocating or encouraging anyone to do anything illegal, just providing this information for educational purposes.
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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by raptor2 » Wed Dec 30, 2020 5:50 pm

^^^ There is never anything good related to a water leak. ^^^

The only thing worse than a fresh water leak in a house (which can cause literally 1,000's of dollars in damage with less than $.01 of water) is a sewerage leak.
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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by MPMalloy » Wed Dec 30, 2020 6:36 pm

raptor2 wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 5:50 pm
^^^ There is never anything good related to a water leak. ^^^

The only thing worse than a fresh water leak in a house (which can cause literally 1,000's of dollars in damage with less than $.01 of water) is a sewerage leak.
When I was getting my start in insurance, A senior adjuster told us that what fire doesn't destroy, the water from putting the fire out often does.

+1 on sewage.

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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by tony d tiger » Wed Dec 30, 2020 7:11 pm

woodsghost wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:45 pm
boskone wrote:
Tue Dec 29, 2020 7:20 pm
Well, if it was this "Earth First" group, they've found a great way to lose any credibility with the general populace.
This depends on who your audience is. If the audience is not "the general populace" but instead "like minded and inclined individuals" then I'd say they succeeded.

You get enough like minded people together, you commit enough acts of ...."disruption"... and you have the attention of people who make laws.

Also, if you can consistently make NG an unreliable means of heating, people will drift towards other, less disrupted means of heating and the group is successful (if those other means are also considered more eco friendly).
Just like having a generator to back supply critical appliances in long term power outages; a secondary source of heat (and water) = good preps.
We don't have a full generator / lock-out circuit panel but run a couple extension cords to the fridge and freezer. Got natural gas fireplace with a blower to heat the upstairs - and if push comes to shove, we move into "the escape pod" (travel trailer) and power it.

So, my like-minded people are you all. :mrgreen:
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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by RoneKiln » Thu Dec 31, 2020 2:06 am

NT2C wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 1:02 pm
CrossCut wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:19 pm
Right, couldn't agree more, and was just writing this when I saw your post:

As to this incident, this was probably the most distressing part to me, "Work crews were forced to visit each gas meter on an individual basis, manually turn them off, and relight pilot lights in order to restore services". I'm sure it's for liability purposes, but sad that the majority of property owners wouldn't be expected to know how to shut off their own gas service and be trustworthy enough to leave them off until the system was purged and repressurized and told they could turn them back on. Even worse, that they "reminded customers that they should not attempt to relight appliances on their own." (as reported here: https://www.aspentimes.com/news/investi ... o-tuesday/).
There's a Federal regulation that requires it. If the utility doesn't do this they lose any liability protections they have and are subject to some serious fines.
Holy crud, I've several times turned my own NG off and on for various reasons, once by recomendation from my gas company. Every spring I isolate my heater from the NG and every winter I turn it back on and light the pilot light. I had no idea there were any regulations on that.
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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by NT2C » Thu Dec 31, 2020 6:48 am

RoneKiln wrote:
Thu Dec 31, 2020 2:06 am
NT2C wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 1:02 pm
CrossCut wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:19 pm
Right, couldn't agree more, and was just writing this when I saw your post:

As to this incident, this was probably the most distressing part to me, "Work crews were forced to visit each gas meter on an individual basis, manually turn them off, and relight pilot lights in order to restore services". I'm sure it's for liability purposes, but sad that the majority of property owners wouldn't be expected to know how to shut off their own gas service and be trustworthy enough to leave them off until the system was purged and repressurized and told they could turn them back on. Even worse, that they "reminded customers that they should not attempt to relight appliances on their own." (as reported here: https://www.aspentimes.com/news/investi ... o-tuesday/).
There's a Federal regulation that requires it. If the utility doesn't do this they lose any liability protections they have and are subject to some serious fines.
Holy crud, I've several times turned my own NG off and on for various reasons, once by recomendation from my gas company. Every spring I isolate my heater from the NG and every winter I turn it back on and light the pilot light. I had no idea there were any regulations on that.
It only applies if the utility has had to turn off the gas for things like non-payment, repair work, etc. Generally, the consumer is free to turn on/off anything on the customer side of the meter as they wish, but if service gets interrupted from the utility side of the meter the utility is required by Federal regs to go in and relight any pilot lights or service cannot be restored.
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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by RoneKiln » Thu Dec 31, 2020 11:41 pm

NT2C wrote:
Thu Dec 31, 2020 6:48 am

It only applies if the utility has had to turn off the gas for things like non-payment, repair work, etc. Generally, the consumer is free to turn on/off anything on the customer side of the meter as they wish, but if service gets interrupted from the utility side of the meter the utility is required by Federal regs to go in and relight any pilot lights or service cannot be restored.
That makes sense. Thanks for clarifying.
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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by RonnyRonin » Fri Jan 01, 2021 10:35 pm

woodsghost wrote:
Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:45 pm
boskone wrote:
Tue Dec 29, 2020 7:20 pm
Well, if it was this "Earth First" group, they've found a great way to lose any credibility with the general populace.
This depends on who your audience is. If the audience is not "the general populace" but instead "like minded and inclined individuals" then I'd say they succeeded.

You get enough like minded people together, you commit enough acts of ...."disruption"... and you have the attention of people who make laws.

Also, if you can consistently make NG an unreliable means of heating, people will drift towards other, less disrupted means of heating and the group is successful (if those other means are also considered more eco friendly).
Personally I think it's about equal odds the "earth first!" is an intentional misdirection, I'd even put a small amount of money on it if I were a betting man. Nowadays so many groups are espousing accelerationism it's practically impossible to guess who did any given thing.

I don't think Aspen being the target is coincidence, but I can think of two differing reasons for it to be so:

1) Aspen is one of the clearest symbols of wealth and decadence in the area. While of course it will inevitably be the service workers facilitating the playground that bear the brunt of the attack; as a symbol (especially to the sorts of like minded individuals Woodsghost referenced) the image of New York tycoons and retired millionaire athletes shivering in their vacation mansions is exactly what would bring maximum support for the attack. A similar attack on a blue-collar mountain town or one of the bedroom communities around Aspen would not inspire the same support, nor would it be nearly as likely to make the news.

2) Historically I don't think it's too outrageous to say that the children of upper class households are vulnerable to radicalization; at least in a fashionable way. While I think its less likely, or could include the above reasons, it could also be so simple as rich kids being edgy and lashing out at their parents. I don't know if the sophistication of the attack precludes this possibility, I know I heard it hinted this wasn't done by someone totally unfamiliar with out gas utilities operate, but as idle speculation based on my first-hand colorado anecdotal observations it's not impossible.
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Re: Attack on Aspen Colorado NG Home Distribution System

Post by Albert » Sat Jan 02, 2021 1:12 pm

Don't forget that this may be an attempt to "level the playing field" between the haves and have-nots. :-(

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