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'Cybersecurity' worries spur Congress to rethink electrical grid

'Cybersecurity' worries spur Congress to rethink electrical grid
'Cybersecurity' worries spur Congress to rethink electrical grid 

By Stephanie Condon
Politics and Law 
September 12, 2008

WASHINGTON -- The potential for "cybersecurity" attacks on the United 
State's electric power grids has spurred politicians to consider 
legislation to broaden federal authority over electric companies.

Congress already has been consulting with federal agencies and industry 
associations over how to craft such legislation. On Thursday, 
legislators sought further input at a hearing before the House Energy 
and Commerce's subcommittee on energy and air quality.

Industry representatives endorsed the idea of strengthening federal 
authority in the event of an imminent cybersecurity threat but cautioned 
against expanding the government's powers too broadly.

"We understand the seriousness of the issue and the need to deal with 
it," said Susan Kelly, a vice president for the American Public Power 
Association. "At the same time, we believe that such legislation must be 
carefully drawn."

The draft legislation under consideration would expand the authority of 
the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which already regulates the 
nation's bulk power system as allowed by the Federal Power Act. A final 
draft of the bill will likely be considered by the committee next week, 
following a classified briefing with intelligence agencies, said Rep. 
Rick Boucher, chairman of the subcommittee.

The proposed law could require any owner, user, or operator of the bulk 
power system to abide by interim measures established by the FERC to 
address current security threats until FERC could address the threats 
under its normal protocol. It would also grant the FERC the ability to 
issue orders to owners of the bulk power system at the directive of the 
White House, either through the president or the secretary of energy.


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