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ICYMI: Energy security must be high on the agenda

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Washington, July 25, 2018 | comments

Energy security must be high on the agenda
By U.S. Rep. Fred Upton
July 24, 2018
The Hill

Whether it’s the flip of a light switch or plugging in your cell phone to charge – never has the reliability of our energy supply been more important to so much in our daily lives. That also means never has energy infrastructure been a greater potential target for an attack.

It is indisputable that ensuring the reliable and uninterrupted supply of fuels and electricity is absolutely essential to our nation’s economy, security, and the health and safety of its citizens. However, as our energy infrastructure has become more complex and interconnected and society has grown more dependent on this infrastructure, safeguarding it has become particularly challenging.

Recently reported high-profile attempts by foreign nations to infiltrate our nation’s energy sector, as well as a devastating year for natural disasters in 2017, highlight the need for preparing for and mitigating these real and growing threats.

We’ve read alarming reports of what might happen if there were a successful, widespread attack on our energy infrastructure—and the potential challenges to recovering from such an attack. By any measure, energy security must be at the top of Washington’s agenda, or we could face serious costly and life-threatening consequences.

Since its inception, the Department of Energy (DOE) has performed a vital energy security mission to ensure the supply and delivery of fuels and power in emergencies. Over time, DOE has developed the information tools and technical capacity to respond to emergencies and to develop advanced technologies to protect the nation’s energy infrastructure, especially against cyberthreats.    

In recent years, Congress reemphasized DOE’s responsibility to respond to physical and cyberattacks to energy systems through the passage of the FAST Act of 2015. Secretary Rick Perry has also taken important steps to make DOE’s management of energy emergencies and cybersecurity a top priority with the recent establishment of the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response.

But there is still more work to be done. And the good news is, the House is hard at work.

Just last month, the Energy and Commerce Committee advanced several bipartisan bills that will strengthen DOE’s capabilities to respond to, and protect against, physical and cybersecurity threats to our energy infrastructure.

Of course, for DOE to effectively carry out its responsibilities, it must account for each interrelated segment of the nation’s energy infrastructure, including pipelines, which are subject to an array of other federal authorities.

This is why I introduced the Pipeline and LNG Facility Cybersecurity Preparedness Act to address this issue. This legislation requires the Secretary of Energy to establish a program to improve cooperation between federal agencies, states, and industry to ensure the safe and dependable flow of energy across the United States. This will help boost physical security and cybersecurity of energy pipelines and liquefied natural gas facilities.

Other legislation passed by the committee includes the Energy Emergency Leadership Act, the Cyber Sense Act, and the Enhancing Grid Security through Public-Private Partnerships Act. All of these bipartisan measures take practical steps to ensure that DOE can effectively carry out its emergency and security duties.

The threat of an attack on our energy infrastructure is no longer a matter of “if,” but “when.” Congress must act swiftly by providing DOE with the tools it needs to enhance preparedness and protections of our energy systems.

It’s time to enact legislation that confronts these threats and improves the resiliency and reliability of our nation’s energy infrastructure.

Our economy and national security depend on it.

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