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How Safe and Reliable Is America's Electric Grid? How Safe and Reliable Is America's Electric Grid?

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How Safe and Reliable Is America's Electric Grid?


Power lines are seen as an out-of-control wildfire threatens the electrical grid in the area on June 9, 2011 in Springerville, Arizona.(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

With cold weather and cyberattacks threatening the country's electric grid, what more should Washington do to make sure the lights stay on?

A string of cold snaps up and down the Eastern Seaboard this winter is putting pressure on grid operators seeking to keep pace with a surge in demand for heat and electricity.


In a speech to utility regulators last week, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called on policymakers to pay more attention to policy and environmental factors that threaten the grid. Murkowski also asserted that the Environmental Protection Agency's regulations to cap carbon emissions from power plants could threaten the stability of the electric grid by forcing coal-fired power plants to shut down.

Also last week, Jon Wellinghoff, the former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees the nation's electric grid, said he believes an attack on a California power substation that occurred in April was an act of terrorism. His statement highlights the very real potential for such threats to grid reliability.

Which factors, including regulatory policy, extreme weather, and terrorist threats, do you think pose the biggest danger to the grid? What roles do the Obama administration and Congress have in ensuring that the grid is strong and safe? How can private companies participate in the process?


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