Lawmakers Push to Protect Electric Grid from Cyberattacks

WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 9: U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) speaks as he introduces Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell during a luncheon September 9, 2003 at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, DC. Powell talked about the state of regulation or de-regulation in the telecommunications industry. 
National Journal
Clare Foran
Add to Briefcase
Clare Foran
Dec. 5, 2013, 7:56 a.m.

Law­makers from both parties voiced con­cerns at a House hear­ing Thursday that prop­er safe­guards are not in place to de­fend the elec­tric grid against cy­ber at­tacks.

“It is clear that the elec­tric grid is not ad­equately pro­tec­ted from phys­ic­al or cy­ber at­tacks,” said House En­ergy and Com­merce rank­ing mem­ber Rep. Henry Wax­man, D-Cal­if., at an En­ergy and Power Sub­com­mit­tee hear­ing to ex­am­ine the role of the Fed­er­al En­ergy Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion in ap­prov­ing en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture and main­tain­ing en­ergy se­cur­ity.

Wax­man called for the pas­sage of le­gis­la­tion to strengthen FERC’s abil­ity to pro­tect and main­tain the grid.

“FERC lacks au­thor­ity to dir­ectly ad­dress these threats and vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies, [and] Con­gress needs to fix this gap in reg­u­lat­ory au­thor­ity.”

Also at the hear­ing, House Re­pub­lic­ans con­tin­ued to paint them­selves as cham­pi­ons of the do­mest­ic en­ergy boom, while at the same time char­ging the ad­min­is­tra­tion with stand­ing in the way of in­creased pro­duc­tion.

“Long-held be­liefs of Amer­ic­an en­ergy scarcity have giv­en way to a new era of en­ergy abund­ance, es­pe­cially in re­gards to oil and nat­ur­al gas. But many policies and at­ti­tudes are still rooted in the out­dated as­sump­tions of short­ages and rising im­ports, with the po­ten­tial to ob­struct the op­por­tun­it­ies be­fore us,” com­men­ted Com­mit­tee Chair­man Rep. Fred Up­ton, R-Mich.

Act­ing FERC Chair­man Cheryl LaFleur, along with three com­mis­sion­ers, were asked to testi­fy at the hear­ing.

There was also bi­par­tis­an in­terest among pan­el mem­bers as to wheth­er the com­mis­sion­ers would sup­port le­gis­la­tion to speed ap­prov­al of en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects such as li­que­fied-nat­ur­al gas ex­port fa­cil­it­ies and nat­ur­al gas pipelines. Re­pub­lic­an law­makers ven­tured out on their own, however, in claim­ing that fed­er­al reg­u­lat­ors have so far worked mainly to de­ter timely in­fra­struc­ture ap­prov­al.

“We’ve got to build this ar­chi­tec­ture of abund­ance quickly giv­en that Amer­ica’s oil and gas out­put has been rising every year and is strain­ing the ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture. But nearly every new pro­ject is met with stiff res­ist­ance at every step of the pro­cess,” Up­ton com­men­ted, say­ing that the “ar­cha­ic fed­er­al reg­u­lat­ory pro­cess can be ma­nip­u­lated to cause years of delays for pipelines, power­line, LNG ex­port pro­jects, and in some cases can block them out­right.”

Com­mis­sion­ers warned, however, that im­pos­ing timelines for ap­prov­al of en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects could sab­ot­age ef­forts to in­crease oil and nat­ur­al gas out­put.

“You also have to be care­ful that as I test­i­fied be­fore this com­mit­tee earli­er that you don’t force a timeline that res­ults in a no be­cause they’ll say they don’t have enough time to ana­lyze the pro­ject,” Philip Moeller, one of the com­mis­sion­ers in­volved in the hear­ing com­men­ted.

The hear­ing comes on the heels of a ma­jor push by House con­ser­vat­ives pri­or to the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day to pass a series of en­ergy policy acts aimed at ex­pand­ing oil and nat­ur­al gas pro­duc­tion, in­clud­ing a bill by Rep. Mike Pom­peo, R-Kan., which would set an up­per lim­it of 12 months for FERC to ap­prove or deny nat­ur­al gas pipelines.

The Sen­ate is not ex­pec­ted to take up the le­gis­la­tion and the White House has threatened to veto the bill.

Nev­er­the­less, Up­ton in­dic­ated that con­ser­vat­ives aren’t plan­ning to give up the fight over en­ergy policy any­time soon, say­ing that he ex­pects that the House will soon con­sider a bill he in­tro­duced, along with Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, to speed ap­prov­al of cross-bor­der oil and nat­ur­al gas pipelines as well as elec­tric trans­mis­sion lines.

What We're Following See More »
Bill Murray Crashes White House Briefing Room
3 minutes ago
CFPB Decision May Reverberate to Other Agencies
2 hours ago

"A federal appeals court's decision that declared the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau an arm of the White House relies on a novel interpretation of the constitution's separation of powers clause that could have broader effects on how other regulators" like the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Morning Consult Poll: Clinton Decisively Won Debate
2 hours ago

"According to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, the first national post-debate survey, 43 percent of registered voters said the Democratic candidate won, compared with 26 percent who opted for the Republican Party’s standard bearer. Her 6-point lead over Trump among likely voters is unchanged from our previous survey: Clinton still leads Trump 42 percent to 36 percent in the race for the White House, with Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson taking 9 percent of the vote."

Twitter Bots Dominated First Debate
4 hours ago

Twitter bots, "automated social media accounts that interact with other users," accounted for a large part of the online discussion during the first presidential debate. Bots made up 22 percent of conversation about Hillary Clinton on the social media platform, and a whopping one third of Twitter conversation about Donald Trump.

Center for Public Integrity to Spin Off Journalism Arm
4 hours ago

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the nonprofit that published the Panama Papers earlier this year, is being spun off from its parent organization, the Center for Public Integrity. According to a statement, "CPI’s Board of Directors has decided that enabling the ICIJ to chart its own course will help both journalistic teams build on the massive impact they have had as one organization."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.