House panel approves bills to secure energy infrastructure

House panel approves bills to secure energy infrastructure
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The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved several pieces of legislation aimed at securing U.S. energy infrastructure from cyberattacks. 

The bipartisan proposals are designed to bolster the Department of Energy’s cybersecurity efforts. One, for instance, would establish a new program at the department focused on the physical security and cybersecurity of energy pipelines and liquefied natural gas facilities. 

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The action on the legislation Wednesday underscores growing concerns in Washington over the physical and digital security of the nation’s critical energy assets. 

In March, officials with the Department of Homeland Security and FBI revealed that Russian hackers had engaged in a coordinated cyberattack campaign against the energy grid and other critical infrastructure in the United States.   

The panel's lawmakers approved four legislative proposals addressing energy cybersecurity on Wednesday. The proposals now head to the full House for a vote.

One of the bills would establish a program to strengthen the Department of Energy’s role in securing energy pipelines and liquefied natural gas facilities from physical and digital threats. The second would require the department to establish a voluntary program to certify products in cybersecurity for use in the bulk-power system. 

Another aims to boost public-private partnerships to ensure the security of electric utilities. Finally, the fourth bill approved by the committee would amend current law to clarify that energy cybersecurity falls under the responsibilities of the Department of Energy.

Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryThe Hill's 12:30 Report: State of the Union takeaways | Sights and sounds from the night | Virginia attorney general admits he wore blackface Energy Secretary Rick Perry is designated survivor for 2019 State of the Union Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union MORE and other top officials have acknowledged that the energy sector faces a wealth of threats in cyberspace. Perry has insisted that he is prioritizing the issue, establishing a new office devoted to cyber and energy security in February.