FERC chief blasts Wall Street Journal’s ‘highly irresponsible’ data release

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 14, 2014

Cheryl LaFleur took aim at a story published yesterday that says the United States could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs knock out just nine transmission substations on a hot summer day.The story cited a “previously unreported federal analysis” conducted by FERC officials that warned of a blackout that could linger for weeks to months.”Today’s publication by The Wall Street Journal of sensitive information about the grid undermines the careful work done by professionals who dedicate their careers to providing the American people with a reliable and secure grid,” LaFleur said.

Though the story didn’t identify the particular substations, “publication of other sensitive information is highly irresponsible,” LaFleur said, adding that publishing “sensitive material about the grid crosses the line from transparency to irresponsibility, and gives those who would do us harm a road map to achieve malicious designs.”

Push-back was also voiced on Capitol Hill.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s top Republican, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, in a statement called the release of such data — namely, numbers and geographic regions where substations could be attacked to trigger more widespread damage — “dangerous and irresponsible” and warned it could provide a road map to those wishing to harm the United States.

“Whoever is the source of this leak — and it appears to be someone with a great deal of access to highly sensitive, narrowly distributed FERC documents — is clearly putting our nation at risk. If his or her actions are not illegal, they should be,” Murkowski said.

FERC last week heeded lawmakers and ordered the North American Electric Reliability Corp., an industry group that oversees the grid, to develop new physical security standards to protect the energy system by June.

Those calls were fueled by a high-profile — and still unsolved — attack on a substation in California last April.