Bennet, Gardner Applaud Passage of Two Cybersecurity Bills to Protect Energy Grid Through Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R), member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, applauded the committee’s passage of the Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act and the Enhancing Grid Security through Public-Private Partnerships Act, a significant step towards protecting our country’s energy grid from cyberattacks. 

“Today, we moved one step closer to protecting our country’s energy grid from a crippling cyberattack,” said Bennet. “When it comes to securing America’s infrastructure – from our hospitals and banks, to gas stations and water treatment facilities – there is no room for politics. We’ll continue to work with Senator Gardner to send these two bills to the President’s desk.”

“Colorado and states across the country need to secure our energy grids and be better prepared against cyber-attacks that threaten our critical infrastructure,” said Gardner. “I’ve worked with Senator Bennet on these bipartisan pieces of legislation because we both know the risk cyber-attacks pose to our country and the need for leadership on these issues. I’m proud to have voted to advance this legislation to help shore up our electric grid’s vulnerabilities out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today. I look forward to working with my colleagues to gather more bipartisan support and see these bills signed into law.” 

Background

Bennet and Gardner introduced the Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act and the Enhancing Grid Security through Public-Private Partnerships Act in July, both of which were then referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. 

Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act 

This bill authorizes the Department of Energy (DOE) to provide financial assistance to states to develop or revise a State Energy Security Plan. The bill outlines the contents of a State Security Plan, including the need for coordination and joint exercises with industry and federal stakeholders. It authorizes DOE $90 million annually for Fiscal Years 2021 – 2025 to offer financial and technical assistance to states, including for developing and revising their plans. 

A State Energy Security Plan will assess a state’s existing circumstances and propose methods to strengthen the ability of a state to:

  • Secure the energy infrastructure of the state against all physical and cybersecurity threats;
  • Mitigate the risk of energy supply disruptions to the state and enhance response to, and recovery from energy disruptions; and
  • Ensure the state has a reliable, secure, and resilient energy infrastructure.

Earlier this month, a version of the Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Enhancing Grid Security through Public-Private Partnerships Act 

This legislation would create a new program at the Department of Energy (DOE) to provide physical and cyber security assistance to electric utilities where the Secretary has substantial concerns and electric utilities have fewer available resources due to size or region. Support from DOE would include providing tools for self-assessment, assisting with threat assessment and training, and increasing the sharing of best practices and data collection.

The bill also requires DOE to submit a report to Congress within one year that identifies priorities for addressing physical and cyber security vulnerabilities in electricity distribution systems, the cost and benefits of fixing those vulnerabilities, and opportunities for the public and private sector to collaborate on financing and funding.

Stakeholder Support

The bills are supported by National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Ampex, National Cybersecurity Center, the Cyber Institute, Protect Our Power, and the National Association of State Energy Officials. 

Building on Cybersecurity Progress  

In 2018, Bennet led an amendment with Gardner and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) – the Energy Jobs for Our Heroes Act, to help veterans prepare for careers in cybersecurity and clean energy – and secured it in the energy and water spending bill that was signed into law.

In Bennet’s capacity as a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, he secured a cyber and grid security bill, also supported by Gardner, in the 2018 Senate Farm Bill, to ensure cybersecurity and grid improvement projects are eligible for USDA Rural Utility Service loans.