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States work to protect electric grid from solar storms and nuclear attacks

By   /   April 7, 2014  /   No Comments

By Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org

States are working to protect their electrical grids from solar storms and nuclear attacks, frustrated by federal inaction to do the same.

States are working to protect the nation's electric grid from electromagnetic pulses, a burst of energy that could cripple electrical systems and cause mass casualties.

States are working to protect the nation’s electric grid from electromagnetic pulses, a burst of energy that could cripple electrical systems and cause mass casualties.

Fearful of the deadly consequences of an electromagnetic pulse, should one hit the electrical grid, states have taken the protection of their residents into their own hands.

An EMP is a wave of energy with the ability to disrupt electrical signals. If the Earth’s atmosphere were hit by the energy from a large enough solar flare, or a nuclear bomb were detonated high enough in the sky, it would create an EMP with enough force to disable the electrical grid in many parts of the world.

In 2011, the National Association for Regulatory Utility Commissioners passed a resolution to understand the threat affecting the utilities under their jurisdiction and to advocate for federal investment into researching solutions to the problem.

In January, the Washington Examiner reported at least 12 states had begun to demand that electrical companies make the necessary upgrades to protect their systems.

Maine, Virginia, Florida, Texas, New York, Oklahoma and Alaska, for example, have all either introduced their own initiatives to require utilities to upgrade their systems, and in some states even passed those initiatives, or to pressure the federal government to do the same.

“There is a lot of activity at the state levels, growing activity I hope,” former Central Intelligence Agency analyst Peter Pry told Watchdog.org, “and all of it kind of driven by frustration that Washington has had half a decade, and it hasn’t done anything.”

Pry is now the executive director of EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security.

Federal inaction to upgrade the nation’s electric grid to address the problem is linked to resistance from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a nonprofit organization overseeing the reliability of electric systems in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

“The main problem as far as I can tell is that the electric utilities don’t even want anyone to know that this is a problem, let alone require them to do anything about it,” Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, told Watchdog.org.

The Center for Security Policy is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit security policy think tank.

NERC didn’t respond to Watchdog.org’s request for comment by the time of publication.

“I say this as a tea party Republican, I’m not in favor of big government, but there is a legitimate role for government in the Constitution to provide for the common defense and make sure that the people are protected,” Pry said.

Contact Josh Peterson at jpeterson@watchdog.org. Follow Josh on Twitter at @jdpeterson

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to reflect that initiatives in some states may have been introduced but did not pass.

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Josh Peterson is a DC-based tech reporter for the Franklin Center's Watchdog.org news site. Peterson previously spent two years at The Daily Caller covering tech and telecom regulatory policy as the publication's Tech Editor. During that time, he focused on cybersecurity, privacy, civil liberties, and intellectual property issues, and in addition to covering political protest movements. Prior to joining The Daily Caller in October 2011, Peterson spent time in DC researching and reporting on technology issues in internship roles with Hillsdale College's Kirby Center, Broadband Breakfast and The National Journalism Center, and The Heritage Foundation. Peterson has a B.A. in Religion and Philosophy from Hillsdale College. He is also a musician and music enthusiast, and an avid martial artist.