Murkowski, Manchin, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen America’s Cybersecurity

September 26, 2019

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., James Risch, R-Idaho, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Angus King, I-Maine, today 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, directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to incentivize cybersecurity investments by electric utilities. It also establishes a grant and technical assistance program for advanced cybersecurity technology at the Department of Energy (DOE).

“Protecting our nation’s electric grid from cyber threats is uniquely 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. Our bill takes steps to ensure utilities across our country are able to continue investing in advanced, cutting-edge cybersecurity technologies while also strengthening the partnership between private industry and the federal government.”

“It’s no secret that cybersecurity threats are ever evolving and our electric grid remains a top target. The PROTECT Act would create additional incentives for utilities to enhance their cybersecurity efforts and increase their resilience to attacks. It’s past time we take common sense steps like this one to bolster grid cybersecurity and I’m proud to cosponsor the PROTECT Act,” Manchin said. 

“The threat to our electrical grid is real, and constantly changing,” Risch said. “Our adversaries will stop at nothing to penetrate our cyber defenses, and a partnership between the federal government and the electric sector will help minimize this risk.  The PROTECT Act is a commonsense approach that will enable electric utilities to implement robust and effective cybersecurity measures to keep the lights on and bolster our national security.”

“America is among the most connected nations in the world, which gives us incredible new opportunities – but also unprecedented and dangerous new vulnerabilities,” King said. “The electric grid powers everything from our healthcare system to our financial institutions – if it is compromised, our society will feel immediate and immense pain. We need to motivate America’s utilities to improve our national cyber defenses, so the electric grid that plays a critical role in each of our lives can’t be crippled by a cyber-attack launched from across the globe.”

Key provisions of the PROTECT Act:

  • Direct FERC to issue a rulemaking on rate incentives for advanced cybersecurity technology. This will enable and incentivize utilities to invest in new technologies that improve their cybersecurity defenses. 
  • Establish a grant program at DOE for utilities that are not regulated by FERC to deploy advanced cybersecurity technology. Examples include electric cooperatives and municipal utilities.

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

Click here for the bill text.

Murkowski is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Manchin is the committee’s ranking member.