On October 30, 2013 Representative Trent Franks introduced a new bill: The Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (or “CIPA”) (H.R. 3410 – read it here). The bill was co-sponsored by Representative Pete Sessions. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security. If the history of grid protection legislation is any indication, the bill may die in committee like all the others. In a statement, Mr. Franks said:
“The Department of Homeland Security has the specific responsibility to secure the key resources and critical infrastructure in the United States, to include power production, generation and distribution systems. Yet, eleven years after this job description was enacted our nation’s most critical infrastructure – and the systems that more than 300 Million Americans depend upon every day for basic activities – are still very vulnerable to large scale blackouts.”
The Critical Infrastructure Protection Act bill is short and sweet. All it would do is require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to:
- Include the threat of EMP (electromagnetic pulse) events in national planning scenarios;
- Educate owners and operators of critical infrastructure, emergency planners, and emergency responders at all levels of government of the threat of EMP events;
- Conduct research and development to mitigate the consequences of EMP events;
- Prepare and submit to the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate a comprehensive plan to protect and prepare the critical infrastructure of the American homeland against EMP events, including from acts of terrorism;
- Finally, to update this plan twice a year and submit the updates to the Committee.
The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to report back to Congress on their progress 180 days after the law is enacted.
This bill, in my opinion, represents the absolute minimum necessary action that the DHS needs to take.
There have been several attempts by a bi-partisan group of House Representatives to do something about the threats to the power grid prior to this – all the previous attempts in previous sessions of Congress have died in committee. Presently, there are two active bills before the house. This one and the more comprehensive H.R. 2417 Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage (SHIELD Act), which was introduced (and referred to committee) on June 18, 2013.
Most Americans are unaware of these efforts by a few bi-partisan members of congress to protect our vulnerable electric grid. Most Americans are unaware that the treats to the electric grid are varied and real. (In addition to EMP, we need to worry about cyber attacks, physical attacks against facilities, and just a good ol’ fashioned cascading failure of our aging grid such as those we have seen in past regional outages.)
Finally, Most Americans are unaware that tens of millions of Americans will die if the electric grid goes down for a long period of time – a frighteningly plausible scenario. But these threats and consequences are real and well documented by the federal government (see the reports here).
What can we do? If the thought of millions of Americans being at risk due to the inaction of our federal government is unacceptable to you, take action:
1) Tell your House Representatives to support these two bills: H.R. 2417 Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage (SHIELD Act), 113th Congress (introduced June 18, 2013) and H.R. 3410 To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to secure critical infrastructure against electromagnetic pulses, and for other purposes. 113th Congress (October 30, 2013).
2) Tell your state legislature to look at what the State of Maine has done to protect their infrastructure and follow suit. The State of Maine is the only state thus far to take the matter into their own hands by passing LD 131.
3) Don’t wait for the federal government to act – prepare your town in the manner described by House Resolution 762 – 112th Congress. Nobody is coming to help your town in a national catastrophe – your town will need to help itself.
It is time that we citizens demand action on these threats to our very existence.