Inside the Beltway: Senators Bow to Reliability Concerns over Grid Security Leaks

By Published On: April 11, 2014

When the Wall Street Journal Feb. 18 made the shoot up at Pacific Gas & Electric’s Metcalf substation in San Jose into a big deal about national grid security, federal agencies blamed the messenger. The journalist was doing her job. The story led to the April 10 Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee hearing. Politicians advocated strengthening grid security. At the same time senators and agency executives chastised the media for potential leaks of security information. Yet, stakeholders appear to be using that media breakout to advise them of how they can modernize and harden the backbone transmission grid. It’s the “lessons of Metcalf,” said Federal Energy Regulatory Commission acting chair Cheryl LaFleur. She said the agency is busy “scrubbing data” in its archives to dissuade anyone from using grid information to break into the system. The April 16, 2013, bullet-ridden assault on the substation “is the most serious attack so far,” committee chair Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) said. “Shootings at substations,” though, “are not uncommon,” Sue Kelly, American Public Power Association chief executive officer, said. There were no cybersecurity resolutions over the national grid in the committee hearing. Instead, pro-coal state senators and reliability proponents advocating fossil fuel and nuclear plants took over the legislative cyber hearing.

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