US Senate hearing addresses energy industry cyber-threats


The US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee met recently to address potential small utility cybersecurity threats.

Discussions focused on energy industry-related cyber-threats and hearing committee members questioned several witnesses regarding ongoing efforts to improve cybersecurity measures.

The committee’s ranking member, senator Joe Manchin said the hearing was timely, following recent reports of cyber threats to utilities.

 “Just a few weeks ago our Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, publicly warned of two potential energy cybersecurity attack scenarios,” Manchin said. “A Russian cyberattack that could disrupt an electrical network for a few hours and a Chinese cyberattack that could disrupt a natural gas pipeline for weeks. I cannot overstate how serious a threat this is. Energy cybersecurity is national security. Period.”

James Robb, president and CEO at North American Electric Reliability Corporation, was one of the witnesses testifying.

“The small utilities are required to be compliant for those functions that they are responsible for,” Robb said. “One of the other initiatives that the industry has put in place is something called cyber mutual assistance. If a entity that is resource constrained suffers a cyber event or a physical event, in the same way that the industry will muster resources to help in storm recovery and so forth, we’ll also muster resources to help in cyber recovery.”

Other witnesses at the hearing included members of the West Virginia National Guard, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, U.S. Department of Energy and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc.