Utilities continue to assess executive order on securing bulk-power system

Hollie Geitner, director of communications with Duquesne Light, on May 1 told TransmissionHub, “We are assessing the impact of the Executive Order and remain committed to keeping our nation’s grid system safe and secure by working with our industry partners to stay apprised of threats and to collaborate on mitigating risks”

Utilities reached by TransmissionHub on May 1, including Duquesne Light Company, said that they are assessing the impact of President Donald Trump’s May 1 “Executive Order on Securing the United States Bulk-Power System.”

In his executive order, Trump said that he finds that “the unrestricted acquisition or use in the United States of bulk-power system electric equipment designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of foreign adversaries augments the ability of foreign adversaries to create and exploit vulnerabilities in bulk-power system electric equipment, with potentially catastrophic effects.”

The executive order noted, in part, that any acquisition, importation, transfer, or installation of any bulk-power system electric equipment is prohibited by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, where the transaction involves any property in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest, where the transaction was initiated after the date of the executive order, and where the Secretary of Energy — in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and in consultation with others, including the Secretary of Defense — has determined that:

  • The transaction involves bulk-power system electric equipment designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied, by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of a foreign adversary
  • The transaction poses an undue risk of sabotage to or subversion of the design, integrity, manufacturing, production, distribution, installation, operation, or maintenance of the bulk-power system in the United States; poses an undue risk of catastrophic effects on the security or resiliency of United States critical infrastructure or the economy of the United States; or otherwise poses an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the security and safety of United States persons

Hollie Geitner, director, communications with Duquesne Light, on May 1 told TransmissionHub, “We are assessing the impact of the executive order and remain committed to keeping our nation’s grid system safe and secure by working with our industry partners to stay apprised of threats and to collaborate on mitigating risks.”

New York Power Authority (NYPA) spokesperson Maura Balaban on May 1 told TransmissionHub, “NYPA is in the process of reviewing the executive order, and therefore is not in a position to comment on the executive order or its impact.”

Avista Corp., spokesperson Casey Fielder on May 1 told TransmissionHub: “Avista has a number of efforts in place to ensure a viable and secure supply chain. We will monitor results of the Department of Energy’s work and how it relates to our organization.”

As noted in DOE’s May 1 statement on the executive order, a task force led by Dan Brouillette, Secretary of DOE, “will develop energy infrastructure procurement policies to ensure national security considerations are fully integrated into government energy security and cybersecurity policymaking.”

Shana Louiselle, communications and policy advocate with Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO), on May 1 told TransmissionHub, “We just received the order, and we are mapping out the impacts to our capital projects that have already been reconfigured as a result of COVID-19 impacts.”

As TransmissionHub reported in March, many companies, including American Transmission Company (ATC), are adding safety measures as they continue construction on electric transmission projects in light of the new coronavirus disease called COVID-19.

Reached by TransmissionHub on May 1, Jody Lau, communications project manager with ATC, said: “ATC transmission construction and maintenance work is proceeding as planned. COVID-19 has not had any significant impact on our operations.”

In a May 1 statement on the executive order, Edison Electric Institute (EEI) President Tom Kuhn said, in part: “EEI and our member companies appreciate that President Trump, through his new executive order, continues to make energy grid security a priority for his Administration and for our nation. We have long maintained that grid security is a shared responsibility, and addressing dynamic threats to the grid requires vigilance and coordination that leverages both government and industry resources.”

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), in its May 1 response to the executive order, said, in part: “The supply chain executive order launches a critical initiative to secure the bulk power system. Efforts outlined in the order will help support activities already underway in NERC’s supply chain standards and other work. The order is a positive step forward to improve reliability and security of the bulk power system supply chain.”

In a statement provided on May 1 to TransmissionHub, FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said, in part: “The president’s executive order tightens the standards for provision of certain equipment for the bulk-electric system, helping to protect our energy infrastructure from foreign adversaries. It is a timely and necessary step that will enhance the security of the U.S. grid.”

Jim Cunningham, executive director of Protect Our Power — which, as noted on its website, is a nonpartisan advisory panel focused on strengthening the country’s electrical power grid — in a May 1 statement said, in part: “This executive order is an important first step — one that Protect Our Power supports — to address dangerous cyber-related vulnerabilities in the electric sector supply chain. The order highlights a looming threat that Protect Our Power and other security experts have identified for some time now.”

Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR), Energy Subcommittee Republican Leader Fred Upton (R-MI), and Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Republican Leader John Shimkus (R-IL), in a May 1 statement on the executive order, said, in part, that they “look forward to working with Secretary Brouillette to ensure the Department has the resources and authorities it needs to” enhance the security of the country’s bulk-power system.

Similarly, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in a May 1 statement, said, in part, that the president “took an important step towards safeguarding the nation’s electric grid from possible security attacks from foreign actors — a step Senator [Angus] King [Jr., (I-ME)] and I called for over a year ago. I’m pleased that the president has directed agencies” to work together to ensure safe and secure supply chains for critical infrastructure.

As noted in a December 2019 press release, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported five bills in 2019 to enhance the security of the country’s electric grid, including legislation that would create incentives for utilities to deploy advanced cybersecurity technologies and increase their resilience to attacks.