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In Harvey’s wake, energy security legislation needed now more than ever

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Bipartisanship has been rare in Congress lately, but one shining example of it has been on increasing our efforts on energy security issues. That needs to continue.

In July, the U.S. House passed with overwhelming Republican and Democratic support H.R. 3050, the Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2017.

{mosads}As the Senate returns from its summer recess, we are hopeful the bill will see similar success on the other side of the Capitol. As Hurricane Harvey has taught us, making sure our energy resources are safe, secure and plentiful should not be a partisan issue. It’s an issue we can’t afford to wait on.

If passed by the Senate, the Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2017 will provide federal financial help to states such as Michigan to implement, review, and revise their energy security plans, including a greater emphasis on cybersecurity.

The bill would allow states to leverage federal resources, knowledge, and expertise to build stronger partnerships with public and private stakeholders to guarantee a better energy future for all.

What are we talking about when we say energy security?

Part of it is being able to respond well on a larger (and multi-state) scale to threats states experience on a smaller scale: ensuring we are ready to respond to physical and cyberattacks on our energy infrastructure, being able to respond to and recover from large-scale storm impacts, and a long-term plan to deal with aging infrastructure.

Now is the time to focus on these issues, especially cybersecurity. The federal Department of Homeland Security’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team recorded nearly double the number of cybersecurity attacks that allowed hackers to access critical power and communications systems (290) compared to what we saw just six years ago. And just recently, a former grid operator CEO reported that there were as many as 4,000 cyberattacks on our grid each month.

There’s no reason to think that the pace of attacks won’t continue to accelerate.

Infrastructure failures or successful cyberattacks could mean a devastating interruption of energy services that could cripple our economy. A grid disruption could mean gas stations with no power to fuel our vehicles, factories with no electricity to run machinery, or families with no way to charge cell phones so they can check on loved ones.

Michigan has an energy security plan in place, and is working to improve it to respond to current and emerging threats. However, energy threats don’t stop at a state’s borders. Officials need to be confident that their neighbors are in a strong position to react to storms, infrastructure malfunctions, and other threats to avoid problems that can cascade throughout a region.

That’s why it’s imperative we all work together — in Congress and at the state level — to make sure our energy infrastructure is reliable and resilient. We can start to assure the American people that this is a top priority of state and federal officials by passing the energy preparedness legislation that already has overwhelming support in the U.S. House.

Upton represents Michigan’s 6th District and is chairman of the Energy and Commerce’s Energy Subcommittee. Valerie Brader is Executive Director, Michigan Agency for Energy.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.


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