Murkowski Introduces Legislation to Strengthen Cybersecurity in Alaska and Across Rural America

September 27, 2019

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, yesterday introduced legislation to enhance the security of our nation’s electric grid. The bill, entitled the Protecting Resources On The Electric grid with Cybersecurity Technology (PROTECT) Act, establishes a grant program at the Department of Energy to advance the cybersecurity defenses of rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities in Alaska and throughout the nation. It also directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to incentivize cybersecurity investments by electric utilities.

“Protecting our electric grid from cyber threats is absolutely critical, and the consequences of a successful cyber-incursion would be widespread and potentially devastating,” Murkowski said. “We know the threat of cyberattacks by our foreign adversaries and other sophisticated entities is real and growing, and that no one, even Alaskans, are safe from it. This bill takes steps to ensure utilities can invest in advanced, cutting-edge cybersecurity technologies, and we took special care to account the unique circumstances of utilities in Alaska.”

“Cybersecurity is a high and increasing priority for electric utilities across Alaska.  No matter the size or location of the utility, cyber threats are an ever present danger. This legislation will provide vital resources for our utilities as they continue to strengthen their systems against cybercrime and infiltration.” Crystal Enkvist, executive director of Alaska Power Association said.

According to the Alaska Power Association, “more than 90 percent of Alaskans receive electricity from either a cooperative or a municipal (publicly-owned) utility.” The Alaska Village Electric Cooperative serves 58 communities throughout the state. Alaska utilities are among those that have been targeted by cyberattacks in recent months and years.  

The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has held several hearings on the cybersecurity of energy infrastructure, including one early in the 116th Congress.

The PROTECT Act is cosponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., James Risch, R-Idaho, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Angus King, I-Maine. Click here for the bill text.

Murkowski is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.