Refinery Manager Charged in Drone Takedown

William Matthew Byrne Sr., US District Attorney, announced today that the manager of the Ravard Refinery in Inglewood was arrested on federal charges of interfering with the flight of an aircraft in relation to last weeks intercept of a drone flying over the refinery. John Muir, the refinery manager was arrested at his home early this morning and will be arraigned tomorrow morning on the charges. Francis C. Whelan, the attorney representing Muir, told reporters outside the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building that Byrne was overstepping his authority in ordering the arrest of Muir and was pandering to the environmental organizations that were endangering the community by flying drones over the refinery. “For the last six months there have been daily flights of moderate-sized unmanned aerial vehicles over the property owned by Ravard Refinery,” Whelan said; “The potential exists for these remotely controlled aircraft to cause catastrophic damage to the refinery. We have repeatedly asked Byrne to take action against the operators and he has refused to do so.” Byrne admitted that he had been approached by the refinery about the drone complaints but said: “The drone operator was not violating any federal laws. Congress has authorized the FAA to put into place regulations allowing critical infrastructure facilities like the refinery to be declared ‘no fly zones’, but the agency has not taken any action on that authority.” Cora Smith, the Director of Save Inglewood Now, admitted to this reporter that her organization had been responsible for flying the drone over the refinery. “We have been flying over the refinery tracking toxic chemical releases for about six months now,” she explained; “SIN is trying to get FEPPA to take action against Ravard for years now, but they insist that they have never detected an unreported release by refinery. We had a visual indication of a leak last week from the video feed of our drone, but it was brought down by the refinery, so we were not able to collect the sensor data about what chemical was involved.” When asked about the release that SIN claims to have seen, Whelan explained that: “It was probably a steam release from a pressure relief valve; we had no chemical releases at the facility on the date the UAV was taken down.” Smith reminded reporters that John Muir is the brother of Jay Muir who oversaw the Federal Environmental Process Protection Agency under the Trump Administration. “There was no way that FEPPA was going to take action against Ravard. We are hoping that will change under the new administration. Muir was charged with illegally intercepting a wire transmission between the operator and the unmanned aerial system, interfering with the operation of an aircraft in causing it to land on the refinery property, and theft of an aircraft for not returning the UAS to the owner. Muir could face ten years in federal prison if convicted. CAUTIONARY NOTE: This is a future news story –Future ICS Security NewsRead More