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Senators' Introduce Cybersecurity Legislation to Protect Energy Grid

 

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Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner introduced two pieces of legislation to protect the country’s energy grid from cyber-attacks. The Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act received a hearing in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. "We have our work cut out for us to protect the electric grid across rural and urban America, and these bills are a good starting point,” said Bennet. “We’ve worked with Coloradans and national energy organizations to ensure the legislation provides the technical assistance they need to safeguard their communities from cyberattacks.”

“Colorado and states across the country need to secure our energy grids and be better prepared against cyber-attacks that threaten our critical infrastructure,” said Gardner. “I’ve worked with Senator Bennet on these bipartisan pieces of legislation because we both know the risk cyber-attacks pose to our country and the need for leadership on these issues. This legislation will help shore up our electric grid’s vulnerabilities. I look forward to working with my colleagues to gather more bipartisan support and see these bills signed into law.

Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act

This bill authorizes the Department of Energy (DOE) to provide financial assistance to states to develop or revise a State Energy Security Plan. The bill outlines the contents of a State Security Plan, including the need for coordination and joint exercises with industry and federal stakeholders.  It authorizes DOE $90 million annually for Fiscal Years 2018 – 2022 to offer financial and technical assistance to states as they develop and update their plans.

A State Energy Security Plan will assess a state’s existing circumstances and propose methods to strengthen the ability of a state to:

  • Secure the energy infrastructure of the State against all physical and cybersecurity threats;
  • Mitigate the risk of energy supply disruptions to the state and enhance response to, and recovery from energy disruptions; and
  • Ensure the state has a reliable, secure, and resilient energy infrastructure.

 

Enhancing Grid Security through Public-Private Partnerships Act

This legislation would authorize the Department of Energy (DOE) to provide physical and cyber security assistance to electric utilities where the Secretary has substantial concerns and electric utilities with fewer available resources due to size or region, and submit a report addressing physical and cyber security vulnerabilities in electricity distribution systems. Support from DOE would include providing tools for self-assessment, assisting with threat assessment and training, and increasing the sharing of best practices and data collection.

Building on Cybersecurity Progress this Year

In June, Bennet led an amendment with Gardner and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)—the Energy Jobs for Our Heroes Act to help veterans prepare for careers in cybersecurity and clean energy—and secured it in the energy and water spending bill that was signed into law.

In Bennet’s capacity as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, he secured a cyber and grid security bill, also supported by Gardner, in the 2018 Senate Farm Bill, to ensure cybersecurity and grid improvement projects are eligible for USDA Rural Utility Service loans.

Stakeholder Support

Colorado

“By making it easier for public utilities and private sector organizations to work together to secure our nation’s grid, and providing funding to use the latest technology in the space, these bills will not only enhance the security of information technology (IT) networks supporting the electrical grid, but also the security of Industrial Control Systems, also referred to as Operational Technology (OT) networks,” said Jim Orahood, Vice President of Ampex. “These bills are necessary to allow for a strong electric utility infrastructure, while building a desperately needed partnership between government and industry.”

“All critical infrastructure segments—financial, healthcare, transportation, etc.—are dependent on the electrical grid,” said Vance Brown, CEO of National Cybersecurity Center. “Considering the facts that the US electrical grid is vulnerable and has already been attacked, and it is owned and operated by multiple entities, it therefore makes sense that coordinated efforts be established to safeguard our way of life. We are thankful for Senators Bennet and Gardner for putting forth legislation to address this critical issue and help fund initiatives which we believe will make a difference.”

“Senate Bill 5240 provides much needed assistance to electrical utilities that lack the tools, capabilities and training resources for conducting their own self-assessments to properly mitigate cybersecurity threats,” said Taylor Vance of the Cyber Institute.  “Sharing of industry proven best practices, while collectively advancing the cybersecurity capabilities of all sizes of electric utilities, will especially unify and align the industry towards a more resilient infrastructure.”

National

“The National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), representing all the state energy offices in the United States supports the Enhancing State Energy Security Planning Bill. We applaud Senator Gardner and Senator Bennet for introducing the bill and we encourage the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to approve the bill. “Rapid Senate action and final passage of a bill after differences are resolved with HR 3050 would strengthen our country’s energy security, enhance cyber security and improve energy emergency preparedness and response.” – Statement from the National Association of State Energy Officials

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