FERC proposes power system physical security reliability standard

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would approve, with modifications, a power system physical security reliability standard submitted by the North American Electric Reliability Corp.

The commission issued an order in March directing NERC to develop a reliability standard requiring owners and operators of the bulk power system to address risks due to physical security threats and vulnerabilities. That order, No. RD14-6, required physical security for the facilities most critical to reliable operation of the bulk power system. FERC held a conference in June on system reliability.

The new NOPR, No. RM14-15 issued July 17, finds NERC’s proposed reliability standard largely satisfies the directives of its March order. However, FERC proposes to direct NERC to develop a modification that would specifically allow FERC or other appropriate governmental authorities to add or subtract facilities from an operator’s list of critical facilities.

FERC also proposes directing NERC to revise wording that the commission thinks could narrow the scope and number of identified critical facilities. Specifically, the NOPR suggests that NERC’s term “widespread instability” is more ambiguous than the simple term “instability.”

In the notice of proposed rulemaking, FERC seeks comment on the two proposed modifications. The NOPR also proposes that NERC submit two reports analyzing whether the physical security reliability standard should apply to additional types of facilities and analyzing grid resiliency and what can be done to maintain reliable operations when faced with loss or degradation of critical facilities.

The notice of proposed rulemaking may be obtained from FERC’s Internet site under http://www.ferc.gov/whats-new/comm-meet/2014/071714/E-8.pdf. Comments on the NOPR are due 45 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

In April, the Energy Department’s Office of Inspector General ordered FERC to take immediate steps to protect national security information pertaining to the bulk power system, which in some cases includes hydroelectric facilities. Citing lapses in FERC’s control of sensitive power system information, DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman issued a management alert recommending immediate steps by FERC Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur.

FERC also issued final rules in November updating Critical Infrastructure Protection Reliability Standards by expanding cyber security standards for the bulk electricity system, including hydroelectric projects.

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