Pennsylvania PUC releases report on critical infrastructure

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 26, 2002 — The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) recently announced that its report in response to House Resolution 361, “Protecting Critical Infrastructure: Keeping Pennsylvanians Safe,” now is available on the PUC’s Web site (www.puc.paonline.com).

Consistent with the legislative mandate of HR 361, the PUC provided its report to the state House of Representatives under confidential cover. After reviewing the report, the House recently entered the report into its official record and authorized the PUC to release it.

In response to HR 361, the PUC assembled an internal security task force to review security issues related to utility infrastructure in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) was an adviser in this effort as directed by HR 361.

Seventy-two companies, spanning nine utility industries, were profiled during this review. The PUC’s investigation looked at utility emergency operations plans; contingency plans; cyber security plans; and business continuity plans.

Based on the findings, conclusions and recommendations from all participants, the PUC identified issues with some degree of merit to recommend further review by the General Assembly. Those recommendations are grouped into the following areas:

* Protection of Assets Through Sharing Best Practices;
* Education and Training;
* Employer/Employee Liability and Background Checks;
* Access Control and Zoning;
* Incident Command System/Unified Command/Emergency Response Teams/Color Code;
* Public Information and Privacy;
* Security Costs and Insurance; and
* Bridges, Mutual Aid and Waivers.

Chairman Thomas recently outlined many of these recommendations for state electric and natural gas companies at an Energy Association of Pennsylvania conference.

“We began our review knowing that our starting point was a position of strength,” Chairman Thomas said. “Our report to the House confirms that Pennsylvania’s utilities approach security in extraordinary, innovative ways. And in no area was that preparation appreciated more than in their work to ensure that Pennsylvanians continued to have power at the flip of a switch in the hours, days and months after the attacks on Sept. 11.

“Since that day, we have worked to develop an even closer working relationship with utility leaders responsible for on-site security.”

The Chairman’s remarks recently focused on a series of recommendations that involve sharing of information and best practices, including:

* Distributing timely and consistent physical and cyber security-related information through government agencies or industry organizations;

* Continuing to enhance information flows;

* Expanding Pennsylvania State Police cyber crime enforcement to allow more interactions with critical infrastructure companies and to assist these companies with tracking and prosecuting cyber crimes;

* Developing levels of cyber reporting to the Federal Bureau of Investigation;

* Clarifying the roles of state and local agencies related to reporting and tracking utility security events;

* Creating a unified technical database or communication procedure that can track unusual occurrences, and link with local and state public health officials, law enforcement, state agencies and utilities;

* Seeking an amendment to the PA One Call Act to require all excavators to notify the PA One Call System prior to doing any excavation work and to prevent unmarked utility lines from being hit and becoming threats to public safety; and

* Mandating the filing of utility-line damages, caused by excavation, with the Department of Labor and Industry.

“Here’s the bottom line: We all need to talk to each other,” Chairman Thomas said. “This is critical. Companies have to share information with each other. The PUC needs to share information with you. We need to talk to other agencies.

“At the Commission over the last year, we secured sensitive documents; reviewed our network security; enhanced our cooperation with other agencies; and participated in the Governor’s Task Force on Security and now a new Homeland Security Advisory Council.

“Anything we can do to share expertise, best practices and threat information goes a long way to making this Commonwealth even safer.”

The House of Representatives issued House Resolution 361 on Dec. 3, 2001, tasking the PUC and PEMA to review, analyze and evaluate utility infrastructure security-protection and risk-mitigation policies and other security issues.

HR 361 also asked the agencies to recommend prudent strategies to address the physical security and integrity of natural gas and electric transmission lines; electric generation facilities; and Pennsylvania’s water supply. The resolution required the agencies to submit a comprehensive report to the House addressing these issues on or before Sept. 1, 2002.

The PUC delivered the “Protecting Critical Infrastructure: Keeping Pennsylvanians Safe” report to the House on Aug. 30.

The Commission will detail the report’s findings related to other utility industries in future announcements.

Source: Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

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