Senate Dems: Electric grid could be vulnerable

A group of Senate Democrats is asking regulators whether stricter standards are needed to secure the nation's electricity grid against physical attacks.

In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Reliability Corp. (NERC), the senators asked that a determination be made on whether more regulations would help utilities meet possible physical threats to the grid.

Last year, a transmission substation in California came under attack, which included cut transmission cables and 100 rounds of gunshots, according to Friday's statement from Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.), Harry Reid (Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Al Franken (Minn.).

The senators met with industry and government officials last week to discuss the improvements made in the last year. And while utilities across the nation have voluntarily bulked up security since the attack, the four senators think it might not be enough.

“We are concerned that voluntary measures may not be sufficient to constitute a reasonable response to the risk of physical attack on the electricity system,” the letter states.

“While it appears that many utilities have a firm grasp on the problem, we simply do not know if there are substantial numbers of utilities or others that may have not taken adequate measures to protect against and minimize the harm from a physical attack.”