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#SubEnergy Examines Electricity Sector’s Efforts to Respond to Cybersecurity Threats

Feb 1, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Energy, chaired by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), today kicked-off its first hearing of the 115th Congress examining the electricity sector’s efforts to respond to cybersecurity threats. 

Given the recent increased public attention to the risks posed by cyber threats to the electricity grid the subcommittee received an update from electricity sector experts to examine the various efforts industry is taking to address current and future threats. The examination included assessment of information sharing and related practices, which were enhanced by committee provisions included in the FAST Act. Those provisions provided new authorities to address grid security emergencies and to facilitate the protection and voluntary sharing of critical electric infrastructure information between private sector asset owners and the federal government.

“News reports bombard us almost daily about malware infections and portrayals of the harm from cyber attacks. It is unquestionable that ensuring the reliable supply of electricity is absolutely vital to our nation’s security, economy, our health and welfare,” said Chairman Upton. “In my home state of Michigan and across the country, electricity enables telecommunications, financial transactions, the transport and delivery of energy, and food. Cyber threats to reliability deserve our constant examination.”

Scott Aaronson, Executive Director, Security and Business Continuity at the Edison Electric Institute testified on the importance of adapting to changing threats and a willingness to work with Congress moving forward, stating, “Security cannot be static; threats evolve and so must we. The electric sector embraces this fact as demonstrated by the ongoing development of regulatory standards, the high-level partnerships developed under ESCC that are enabling us to accomplish more in less time, and the focus on constantly improving preparedness by applying lessons learned from exercises and real-world events. As industry and government leadership improves our ability to protect critical infrastructure from all types of threats, we look forward to working with Congress on this important mission.”

Full committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) added, “By any measure, the reliable supply of electricity is an essential part of almost everything we do, and its loss – even for short periods – can have expensive and life threatening consequences. Unfortunately, cyber threats in this sector are unavoidable and growing. This hearing laid the groundwork for closer scrutiny of the relevant polices necessary to ensure future reliability in an evolving electricity sector. The testimony received today will inform how we approach the future and how we best use innovation and technology to protect American consumers.”

“The energy subcommittee’s agenda for this Congress will include a close focus on various structural, economic, and technological factors that are affecting development of the nation’s electricity system,” concluded Chairman Upton. “We must continue to build a record about electric sector efforts to address cybersecurity threats. Moving forward, we will identify whether additional measures, are necessary.”

A background memo, witness testimony, and an archived webcast of the markup can be found on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s website HERE

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