WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy’s inspector general today alerted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to the fact that sensitive information on potential physical security vulnerabilities of the electric grid should have been classified and protected from release at the time it was created.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) last month wrote to the inspector general requesting a review of the handling of the material and how it came to be published in The Wall Street Journal.
Murkowski, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, requested the inspector general examine the legal or regulatory obligations of current and former FERC commissioners and employees to protect sensitive information. The DOE inspector general review is ongoing.
“This was a dangerous leak of highly sensitive information that should have been classified and closely guarded,” Murkowski said. “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.”
Wednesday’s management alert from Inspector General Gregory Friedman said the leaked material raised concerns with the security and integrity of our nation’s critical energy infrastructure, including the nation’s power grid. The inspector general’s office wrote that the “methods used in creating and distributing this document led us to the preliminary conclusion that the commission may not possess adequate controls for identifying and handling classified national security information.”
Murkowski commended Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur for taking swift action in response to the inspector general’s report to secure this classified information. The inspector general said LaFleur had accepted all four of his recommendations.
Chairwoman LaFleur and FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller will testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday morning at a hearing on the reliability and security of the nation’s electric grid from cyber and physical attacks.