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Proposed law would give FERC new authority over NERC

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Friday, May 06, 2011

The rapid development of the smart grid has led many analysts and industry watchers alike to call for stricter cybersecurity regulations. This week, a proposed U.S. Senate committee bill that would grant new powers to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to monitor the smart grid's cybersecurity was met with concerns, according to a new report.

A report from Platts states that the proposed legislation seeks to limit FERC's cybersecurity oversight of state-jurisdictional electric distribution lines. The legislation, however, worries a large number of important policymakers and analysts, who assert it could put the smart grid - and U.S. national security interests - at risk.

FERC already has a limited ability to monitor certain lines that go into major cities, distribution lines and the grid systems in Hawaii and Alaska. Among other intended consequences, the draft legislation would give FERC the ability to direct the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) to develop or propose existing standards to protect critical infrastructure like the smart grid.

Further, in the event a vulnerability is discovered in a critical infrastructure facility, the bill gives FERC the power to directly act, ordering a plant "to go to a heightened state of readiness," said FERC's director of the office of energy projects, Joseph McClelland.

U.S. policymakers are increasingly concerned about the susceptibility of the smart grid to cybersecurity threats.

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