Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) in a hearing on U.S. and North American energy and resource security announced a letter cosigned by Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) to the Government Accountability Office requesting an assessment of current cyber and physical security protections for U.S. natural gas, oil, and other hazardous liquid pipelines and associated infrastructure.
In the letter the lawmakers wrote, “An assessment of these guidelines and their effectiveness is needed as a number of major trends have emerged, with potentially significant implications for our energy, national and economic security. These include both the increasing interdependence of U.S. electric and natural gas infrastructure, and the evolving nature of cyber threats from both criminal and foreign state actors.”
“The results of this assessment will help policymakers evaluate the security of our nation's energy assets, which are critical to the safety, security, and economic well-being of the country.”
During the hearing Senator Cantwell asked CEO of the American Security project Brigadier General Cheney USMC(Ret) how much the U.S. needs to be thinking about upgrading the security of our critical energy infrastructure as it relates to recent attacks both international and domestically?
“There is no doubt cyber is a huge threat. A threat to our security, threat to our energy sources. As you well explained, there have been multiple attacks on all of our grids. And if we just put our heads in the sand and don’t put the funding towards it or research that is needed to counter these, it is going to get worse, significantly worse,” Brigadier General Cheney responded.
Senator Cantwell referenced a 2013 article from the Christian Science Monitor that reported that “cyberspies linked to China’s military targeted nearly two dozen US natural gas pipeline operators…stealing information that could be used to sabotage US gas pipelines.”
When Senator Cantwell asked what types of cybersecurity actions we should be pursing in response to the growing threat, Brigadier General Cheney said, “The vast majority of our utilities are privately owned in this country. And forcing upon them to do the research to necessarily help counter cyber threats is not the way to go about doing that. I think you need to fund that at a federal level. You need to do research and development on cyber. You need to have a healthy cyber command that is looking at these threats. You need to assist all the utilities in the country on countering these threats. DHS needs to be involved. They need to be robustly funded, to counter the threat that’s there.”
“The United States must prioritize the protection of our critical energy infrastructure,” Senator Cantwell said. “We cannot wait before we have a large-scale attack before we act.”
Senator Cantwell also sent a letter to the Transportation Security Administration, the federal entity tasked with pipeline cybersecurity, posing the same questions.
Read the full letter to the Government Accountability Office here.
Read the full letter to the Transportation Security Administration here.
Witness testimony will be available online immediately before the start of each hearing at on committee website.