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Emergency planners unprepared for catastrophe
Posted By F. Michael Maloof On 11/04/2013 @ 9:46 pm In Front Page,Politics,U.S. | No Comments
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WASHINGTON – Emergency planners across the country may be ill-prepared to respond to a catastrophic blackout from either an electromagnetic pulse or cyber-attack that could knock out the nation’s electrical grid system, an expert confirms in a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the congressional advisory boards of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, has issued a new warning that U.S. utilities have been resisting efforts to harden the grid and local utilities against such an event.
He pointed out that the SHIELD Act, introduced by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., would give the federal government authority to get the utilities to undertake protective measures to guard against an EMP either from a natural solar flare that would hit Earth or a man-made high-altitude nuclear explosion that would emit powerful gamma rays, a form of electromagnetic energy.
However, the legislation may not be going anywhere in Congress.
“When emergency planners from the White House down to local police and fire departments find themselves tasked to plan for an EMP catastrophe in the context of an unprotected electric grid, this will bring enormous pressure to bear on the electric utilities and the NERC,” Pry said.
The NERC, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, represents the electric utility industry to protect bulk power transmission on the grid. However, the federal government currently lacks authority to get local utilities to protect against an EMP.
The SHIELD Act would give the federal government that authority, but it remains stalled in Congress due in large part to the pressure the NERC and utilities have placed on Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who isn’t moving the legislation.
“The SHIELD Act has been stalled for years in the House Energy and Commerce Committee by Chairman Upton, and all our frontal assaults have failed to move him,” Pry said. “So, we are taking a page from Liddell Hart’s ‘Strategy’ and trying the ‘indirect approach.’”
Pry said that the electric power industry so far shows no inclination to invest in the technologies necessary to protect the national grid.
Such protection would amount to a “one-time investment” of $2 billion, “which is what the U.S. gives every year in a foreign aid to Pakistan,” Pry wrote in a recent article in Family Security Matters.
“The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, estimates that EMP protection of the national grid would increase the electric bill of the average rate payer by 20 cents annually.
“Administratively, a coherent and effective answer will not likely arise from uncoordinated decisions made independently by the thousands of individual electric utilities and industries at risk,” Pry said. “Because cyber preparedness should encompass EMP preparedness – and since EMP is an existential threat – it is imperative that government play a supervisory and coordinating role to achieve protection against these threats swiftly.”
Pry pointed out that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not now have jurisdiction over the electric grid, but it does have jurisdiction over federal, state and local catastrophic planning through the National Planning Scenarios.
For that reason, Franks now has introduced new legislation to protect the grid by giving DHS that authority.
The legislation, H.R. 3410, is called the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, or CIPA.
The legislation would amend the Homeland Security Act by specifically making an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, a vital part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Planning Scenarios, or NPS.
National Planning Scenarios are the blueprints for DHS, principally through its Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to implement procedures in cases of national emergencies, such as floods, hurricanes and even acts of terrorism.
However, EMP is not listed as one of DHS’ 15 National Planning Scenarios.
If H.R. 3410 is passed, its implementation would be through the Assistant Secretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate.
In making an EMP part of the DHS’ NPS, it would require the department to have plans in place to respond to a widespread outages.
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