As has been reported, a recent ransomware attack has caused an interstate pipeline and fuel supplier to much of the eastern United States to shut down its operations. Although the attack did not compromise operational systems, the company opted to cease operations as a precautionary measure.
FERC, CFTC, and State Energy Law Developments
The US Department of Energy submitted a report to the president last month on “Economic and National Security Impacts under a Hydraulic Fracturing Ban.” This 80-page report analyzed the effects of a hypothetical United States ban on high-volume hydraulic fracturing technology used with any new or existing onshore wells starting in 2021 through 2025.
The US Congress adopted extensive federal energy policies in the Energy Act of 2020 (Energy Act), which President Donald Trump signed into law on December 27 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.
At its December open meeting, FERC proposed to establish rules for incentive-based rate treatments for voluntary cybersecurity investments by a public utility.
The secretary of the US Department of Energy (DOE) issued an order on December 17 prohibiting electric utilities from installing equipment or components provided by Chinese companies in electric facilities serving designated “Critical Defense Facilities.” Relying on authority from Executive Order 13920 on Securing the United States Bulk-Power System, the order identified threats to the electric supply chain from China and concluded that prohibiting Chinese equipment in these sensitive facilities is necessary to respond to the Chinese government’s plans to undermine the bulk-power system.
A cyberattack on a single gas compression facility resulted in the shutdown of a natural gas pipeline for two days, according to a recent alert from the US Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
At its open meeting on November 21, FERC announced organizational changes to enhance the agency’s focus on cybersecurity threats and challenges to electric infrastructure. Commission staff unveiled five “focus areas” related to grid cybersecurity and announced organizational changes within the Office of Energy Projects (OEP) and Office of Electric Reliability (OER) designed to better position Commission resources to address cybersecurity concerns.
FERC Staff issued an October 4 report on Commission-led critical infrastructure protection (CIP) reliability audits completed during fiscal year 2019. The report provides lessons learned and identifies voluntary practices that FERC Staff observed during those audits that could improve the protection of electric infrastructure from cyberattacks.
Facing what it deems an “unprecedented number of FOIA requests” for nonpublic information related to utility violations of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) critical infrastructure protection (CIP) requirements governing cybersecurity compliance for critical electric infrastructure, FERC Staff has issued a white paper proposing to make publicly available additional information regarding those violations, including the names of the utilities involved.
On June 24, the US Supreme Court issued its opinion in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, expanding the scope of information protected under Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).