Bipartisan senators call on FERC to protect against Huawei threats

Bipartisan senators call on FERC to protect against Huawei threats
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators on Friday sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) urging the agency to protect itself against threats created by using technology from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. 

"As you know, the Intelligence Community has issued repeated warnings to regulators and political leaders about the dangers associated with using Huawei equipment on the nation’s telecommunications network," the 10 lawmakers, lead by Sens. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischTensions boil over on Senate floor amid coronavirus debate  Overnight Defense: Pentagon confirms Iran behind recent rocket attack | Esper says 'all options on the table' | Military restricts service member travel over coronavirus Graham warns of 'aggressive' response to Iran-backed rocket attack that killed US troops MORE (R-Idaho) and Angus KingAngus KingWe weren't ready for a pandemic — imagine a crippling cyberattack Senators offer bill to extend tax filing deadline Russia using coronavirus fears to spread misinformation in Western countries MORE (I-Maine), wrote to FERC Chairman Neil ChatterjeeIndranil (Neil) ChatterjeeOvernight Energy: Trump prepares to buy 30M barrels of oil amid industry slump | Coronavirus offers reprieve from air pollution | Energy regulators split on delaying actions amid outbreak Energy regulators disagree on whether to delay actions amid coronavirus  Hillicon Valley: FTC rules Cambridge Analytica engaged in 'deceptive practices' | NATO researchers warn social media failing to remove fake accounts | Sanders calls for breaking up Comcast, Verizon MORE, who oversees the country's electrical grid.

"Congress and the Trump Administration have taken steps to eliminate Huawei products from national security sensitive applications, citing concerns with the company’s links to the Chinese Communist party, including its intelligence services," the letter continues.

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Although the majority of Huawei's market is in smartphones, the company also has branches focused on solar power development. 

Huawei said in June that it would exit the U.S. solar market, but the senators, who also include Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP lawmaker touts bill prohibiting purchases of drugs made in China Wisconsin Republican says US must not rely on China for critical supplies McConnell: Impeachment distracted government from coronavirus threat MORE (R-Ark.), John CornynJohn CornynLawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package Cuban says he'd spank daughter if she was partying during coronavirus pandemic Twitter comes under fire over Chinese disinformation on coronavirus MORE (R-Texas) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHackers target health care AI amid coronavirus pandemic Hillicon Valley: Coronavirus deal includes funds for mail-in voting | Twitter pulled into fight over virus disinformation | State AGs target price gouging | Apple to donate 10M masks Senator sounds alarm on cyber threats to internet connectivity during coronavirus crisis MORE (D-Va.), warned that FERC should not take the Chinese company's word on the issue.

"While Huawei announced earlier this year that it intended to exit the U.S. solar market, there are no guarantees," the senators wrote.

"Huawei’s line of solar products relies on inverters — devices that manage and convert energy produced by solar panels — for use in homes and businesses," they added. "Huawei-produced inverters connected to the U.S. energy grid could leave it vulnerable to foreign surveillance and interference, and could potentially give Beijing access to meddle with portions of America’s electricity supply."

The letter urges FERC to consider a "ban on the company’s entry into the U.S. inverter market."

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It also advises FERC to work with relevant agencies to develop defenses against potential vulnerabilities stemming from Chinese tech.

"In the meantime, we urge FERC and its new cybersecurity division to work closely with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy and its National Laboratories, industry, utilities, and other federal, state and local regulators to curb threats and protect critical infrastructure," the senators wrote.

A draft version of the letter was circulated on Thursday, and no changes were made in the final version sent to FERC on Friday.