Cantwell Evaluates Real Solutions To Secure The Energy Grid In Case Of Cyber Attack

As the grid faces increasing threats, Ranking Member focuses on blackstart technology to restore power to consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the top Democrat on the committee, continued her call for increased cybersecurity resources to protect the U.S. energy grid. 

“We take for granted the lights will always come on when we flip the switch,” Cantwell said. “But, our electric system is increasingly being tested and stressed. There are daily cyber threats to our electricity infrastructure.” 

Cantwell highlighted her concerns about the vulnerability of the energy grid, as well as statements made by the U.S. intelligence community on the same topic.

“In July, DNI Director Dan Coats spoke to increased malicious cyber activities, importantly noting the ‘warning lights are blinking red.’ I continue to be concerned that a sophisticated attack may result in a widespread blackout,” Cantwell continued.

In her questions at the hearing, Cantwell also called for more resources to train a cybersecurity workforce for the 21st century.

“To me, we should have a [WPA] program for cybersecurity,” Cantwell said. “We should just say, calling all Americans, we will help you get educated in this area if you help us. I think there’s a lot of young people in the Northwest – if they heard that call, they would respond to it…. We need thousands, hundreds of thousands of people in this infrastructure call.”

Cantwell has been the leading voice on protecting critical U.S. infrastructure, including energy infrastructure such as the electric grid and oil and gas pipelines, from cyber attacks. On March 12, 2017, and June 22, 2017, Senator Cantwell sent letters to President Trump calling on him to defend energy infrastructure and to instruct DOE to conduct an analysis of Russian capabilities with respect to cyber attacks on U.S. energy infrastructure. In hearing after hearing, Cantwell has pressed for increased collaboration between the government, private sector, utilities, military, and academia to protect U.S. energy infrastructure from cyber attacks. And in July 2018, Cantwell and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sent a bipartisan letter to President Trump calling for greater action from the federal government to defend the U.S. energy grid from cyber attacks.