AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine’s state legislature is stepping out to confront a problem Washington has been avoiding, taking action to guard the electrical grid system in the state against a natural or man-made electromagnetic pulse attack.
The legislation, LD-131, introduced by Rep. Andrea Boland, was taken up by the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology.
Among other things, the plan would require anyone receiving a certificate of public convenience and necessity before the Public Utilities Commission for building transmission lines to include design measures to limit electromagnetic field levels and ensure the protection of the transmission and distribution system against damage from an electromagnetic pulse or geomagnetic storm.
In one of the more controversial sections, the legislation would require that any transmission line currently under construction would need to incorporate those types of protections, an idea that drew the protests of utilities in the state and region.
But in a recent all-day session, the committee heard from experts on EMP who said a natural EMP event from a geomagnetic superstorm is one of only eight “black swan” events that could change the course of civilization.
The experts viewed the state’s plan as a potential example for other states to follow as more and more regional leaders no longer are waiting for the federal government to take the initiative.
One of the experts, Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, formerly was staff director of the EMP Commission which Congress mandated. That’s the commission that subsequently published its comprehensive study in 2008 on the impact of an EMP event on the nation’s interdependent critical infrastructures.
Others were Dr. Bron Cikotas, one of the nation’s foremost EMP senior scientists who similarly worked on behalf of the EMP Commission, and Dr. Cynthia Ayers, formerly with the National Security Agency and an expert on cyber-warfare.
In addition, other witnesses included F. Michael Maloof, former Pentagon official, WND/G2Bulletin senior writer and author of the recently acclaimed book on EMP, “A Nation Forsaken – EMP: The Escalating Threat of an American Catastrophe;” Thomas Popik of the Foundation to Resilient Societies of New Hampshire; and Dr. William Joyce, CEO of Advance Fusion Systems which develops new EMP protection technology for electric grids.
It was Pry, who in endorsing the legislation, told the joint committee that a recent study titled Global Trends 2030 has warned that natural EMP from a geomagnetic super-storm is one of the only eight “black swan” events that could change the course of civilization.
This warning comes as the sun its fast approaching its 11-year cycle of greatest intensity, called a solar storm maximum, in which the nation’s technology-based infrastructures could be catastrophically affected.
The National Aeronautic and Space Administration has stated that 2013 and 2014 will be the most intense period for enormous solar flares now spewing from the surface of the sun – and which could have a direct hit on Earth.
Experts say a massive flare’s EMP could collapse the nation’s electrical grid, and without power, there would be no food, fuel or communications possible. Ten of millions could die.
In addition, NASA said the cost in the first year alone of a direct hit from an EMP could cost $2 trillion in the first year and take anywhere from four to 10 years to recover, if then.
In effect, the outcome could thrust the nation back into the 19th century.
Pry likened such a prospect to the so-called 1859 Carrington Event which “in those horse and buggy days, civilization did not depend on electricity.
“If a Carrington Event recurred today,” Pry said, “given the current state of unpreparedness, the EMP Commission assessed that electric grids could collapse everywhere on Earth, causing a protracted planetary blackout, endangering the lives of billions (of people) worldwide.”
Pry pointed out that the EMP Commission also has warned that terrorists and rogue states could inflict a protracted EMP catastrophe on the United States by launching a “primitive” nuclear missile off a ship near U.S. shores and detonating the warhead at high-altitude over the country.
“According to the EMP Commission, this could collapse the national electric grid and other critical infrastructures – communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water – and kill about two-thirds of the American people by starvation, disease and societal collapse,” Pry said.
Pry said that there is scientific and strategic consensus among every major U.S. government study that, given the current state of unpreparedness, a natural or nuclear EMP event would have catastrophic consequences for the nation “and therefore the electric grid must be protected.”
He said that in addition to the 2008 congressional EMP commission, such a consensus that the nation’s electric grid must be protected from an EMP also was reached by:
- a 2008 National Academy of Sciences study;
- The 2009 Congressional Strategic Posture Commission;
- The 2010 Department of Energy and North American Electric Reliability Corporation;
- A 2010 interagency study conducted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that included the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and
- A 2013 independent report by the Task Force on national and Homeland Security, an advisory board to the Congress.
“Maine is particularly vulnerable to natural EMP because of its high northern latitude and granite geology,” Pry told the joint committee.
He referred to the 1989 Hydro-Quebec geomagnetic storm which blacked out eastern Canada and caused billions of dollars in economic losses.
“So Maine is in a neighborhood where even a normal geomagnetic storm can have disastrous consequences,” Pry said. “Maine is also closer to the EMP bull’s-eye than most other states for a nuclear EMP attack because of its proximity to New York City and dependency on the Eastern grid. New York City and the Eastern grid that generates 70 percent of the nation’s electricity would be especially tempting targets for a terrorist or rogue state nuclear EMP attack.”
Cikotas, who ran many of the EMP experiments for the EMP Commission, said that research revealed how generators and even transformers, as well as cars, would be adversely affected by an EMP.
In underscoring Pry’s dire predictions on the impact of the lives of people, Cikotas said that most people in the cities would die.
This would be due to the inability to acquire essential food and water and disease that would develop from sewage and the decomposition of bodies that could not be buried. He added that such a consequence would ensue over a wide geographical area.
One of the highest concentrations of population in the United States is along the East Coast in a megapolis stretching from Boston, Mass., to Richmond, Va.
Ayers, a veteran of the National Security Agency and the U.S. Army War College, pointed out that cyber attacks and EMP are part of an adversary’s information warfare operation.
An expert on cyber security and terrorism, Ayers told the joint committee that in protecting against EMP, it will help mitigate cyber threats to the power grid, the type of attacks that currently are under way in a systemic fashion by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
In recent weeks, there have been revelations that the PLA through cyber attacks may be aiming at the nation’s critical infrastructures such as the electric grid and the financial systems. U.S. experts say that the PLA not only could commit espionage to acquire valuable information from them but could use the cyber attacks to shut them down.
In addition, the PLA also is heavily targeting high technology companies to acquire valuable proprietary information through the Internet and telecommunications systems.
In his testimony, Maloof underscored the threat from an EMP event, whether from a high-altitude nuclear explosion, a crippling solar storm or from a third source – radio-frequency, or RF, weapons which a lone wolf or terrorist cell could use against sensitive technology in buildings or aimed at cars.
“It can be aimed to create disruption or a diversion to commit a terrorist act in another part of an urban center knowing that first responders would be blocked in their response to such an emergency,” Maloof said.
He also singled out the growing threat from North Korea which not only has directly threatened the U.S. in recent days, but underscored the threat with the successful launch of a three-stage missile and the orbiting of a package which could in time be a nuclear weapon, capable of reaching the entire United States.
“What makes this prospect all the more threatening is that we know that both North Korea and Iran years ago had received from Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, the blueprints to make a miniaturized nuclear weapon to fit on its missiles,” he said.
“Just as North Korea is planning future missile launches, it has announced further nuclear testing which I would imagine is to perfect a miniaturized nuclear weapon for its delivery systems,” he said.
Like the others, Maloof told the joint committee that the federal government has failed to protect the nation against an EMP event, and that it is up to the states to take the initiative.
“It needs to be a bottom on up, rather than a top on down effort,” Maloof said. In addition to Maine, Maloof said that he has seen legislators in various states such as Tennessee and Georgia considering similar action..
The joint committee is expected to further take up the legislation in a “working session” on Feb. 28 in which opposition from the Maine and State utilities is expected.
The current threat level from a solar flare EMP is high, because of a new giant sunspot six times the diameter of Earth that developed in just hours: