FERC boss asks House subcommittee for more authority over cyber security standards

Washington, D.C., Sept. 15, 2008 — FERC chairman Joseph T. Kelliher testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality on the issue of the commission’s request for additional authority to help protect the nation’s electricity transmission grid against cyber threats.

As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress gave FERC the authority to protect the reliability of the power grid by establishing and enforcing mandatory reliability standards, and specifically charged FERC with overseeing the development of cyber security standards to protect the grid. Kelliher noted that these tools are inadequate to the task, and is asking Congress to give FERC limited authority to establish interim mandatory actions that can be implemented in a timely manner.

Kelliher said the appropriate course would be to amend the Federal Power Act to authorize FERC to directly order mandatory actions on an interim basis upon a finding by the president and the secretary of energy that an interim measure is needed to protect the power grid from a national security threat. Under this approach, FERC could not act without such a finding. But, Kelliher said, it is vital that such a bill allow FERC to take action before a cyber attack, not afterwards. He also said there is no need to amend the existing reliability provisions of the Energy Policy Act.

Until Congress grants FERC this additional authority, Kelliher said that the commission and NERC will continue to use the tools they now have — section 215 of the Federal Power Act — to safeguard the continued reliability of the power grid.

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