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
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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