OIG: Threats to power grid should have remained classified

Federal energy regulators leaked sensitive information on specific locations where the nation's electric grid is vulnerable to physical threats, according to a government watchdog report.

The report from the Energy Department's Office of Inspector General found at least one document created by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on power grid weaknesses, and information related to an attack on a California utility substation last year, should have remained classified.

The inspector general said parts or the entirety of the document might have been given to both federal and industry officials in unclassified settings.

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Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that a federal analysis revealed that, if a joint terrorist strike on nine crucial electric transmission substations were executed, it could result in rolling power outages across the U.S. in each of the nation's three synchronized power networks.

Following the story, Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) requested the inspector general investigate the handling of the material, leading to the report that was released Wednesday night.

“This was a dangerous leak of highly sensitive information that should have been classified and closely guarded,” Murkowski said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it’s now clear that under its previous leadership, FERC mishandled information that should have been classified. At best, a disclosure such as this has national security implications. At worst, it could endanger us all.”

Murkowski commended FERC's acting Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur for acting expeditiously to secure the leaked information.

To further dig into the issue of grid security, Landrieu, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, held a hearing on the matter Thursday.

Check E2-Wire later for more from the hearing.