WASHINGTON - Four U.S. senators, including Oregon's Ron Wyden, commended the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday for taking a step toward greater electric grid security after FERC directed the North American Electric Reliability Corporation to propose minimum grid reliability standards to strengthen the grid against possible physical attacks.
Sens. Wyden, Harry Reid, D-Nev., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Al Franken, D-Minn., sent a letter to FERC and NERC in February asking the agencies to determine whether the national electric grid could benefit from stronger federal standards to ensure the security of the grid.
Concerns were raised after a sophisticated physical attack last year on Pacific Gas & Electric's Metcalf transmission substation in California caused millions of dollars in damages.
"On February 7, 2014 we sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation requesting that they consider requiring minimum standards for protection of the physical security of the electric grid.," the senators said.
"We are pleased that FERC has responded to this request by issuing an order on March 7, 2014, directing NERC to file with FERC proposed reliability standards regarding physical security of the grid within 90 days."
"This action was an important first step to guard against attacks like the one that nearly knocked out a California substation last year. We will be closely monitoring FERC and NERC's progress on the standards as they move forward."
The attack on Pacific Gas & Electric's Metcalf transmission substation – which included severed transmission cables and nearly 100 rounds of gunshots – nearly shut down the substation on April 16, 2013.
The attack could have caused a large-scale blackout in California and surrounding states and served as a "wake-up call" to the potential security risks to the power grid, the senators said.
The senators had requested responses from Acting FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur and the president and CEO of NERC, Gerry Cauley, by the beginning of March.