Obama official: Feds need more cybersecurity oversight for electric grid

Bingaman’s bill, S. 1342, would give FERC the ability to set and enforce cybersecurity measures for the power grid in emergency situations. Bingaman plans to offer the bill as an amendment to Lieberman's legislation, a Democratic aide told The Hill on Tuesday.

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Wellinghoff said the Lieberman bill, S. 3414, lacks a provision giving such mandatory authority to any federal agency. The Senate is set to debate that bill this week.

“I believe that Sen. Bingaman’s bill does provide for some mandatory oversight on the part of FERC. And I think that would be helpful,” Wellinghoff said.

Republicans and the electric utility industry have been vocal about keeping the federal government out of directly managing cyberoperations for critical infrastructure networks.

They fear such involvement would add costly regulations. They instead prefer enhanced information-sharing mechanisms between industry and the federal government.

Democrats, on the other hand, want more protections for critical infrastructure networks such as the electric grid. They say leaving specific guidelines out of cybersecurity legislation for those networks would expose some of the nation’s most important systems to cyberattacks.