• Cybersecurity Amendment Included in Highway Bill
  • November 10, 2015
  • Law Firm: Sutherland Asbill Brennan LLP - Washington Office
  • Under an amendment to the highway bill approved last week by the U.S. House of Representatives, the federal government would be authorized to direct owners and operators of critical energy infrastructure to act to “protect or restore the reliability” of critical infrastructure facilities during grid security emergencies. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation and its eight regional entities also would be subject to such directives. A “grid security emergency” would be defined as the “occurrence or imminent danger” of a “malicious act” or geomagnetic storm that could disrupt the operation of facilities “essential to the reliability of critical electric infrastructure,” as well as “direct physical attacks on critical electric infrastructure.”

    The grid security amendment also would exempt owners and operators of electric generation or transmission facilities from penalties if their compliance with security directives would cause them to violate environmental laws and regulations or mandatory reliability standards. The amendment would allow owners, operators and users of such facilities an opportunity to recover their costs to comply with directives, if the costs were “prudently incurred” and could not “reasonably be recovered through regulated rates or market prices” for electricity. Finally, the amendment would encourage the voluntary sharing of critical electric infrastructure information among governmental agencies, reliability regulators, and owners and operators of critical infrastructure, and require the Department of Energy to prepare a plan for the strategic location of spare large power transformers and emergency mobile substations to reduce the vulnerability of the U.S. power grid to physical and cyber attacks.