By Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org
WASHINGTON — A persistent failure by federal lawmakers to protect the nation’s electric grid from attack isn’t stopping private sector efforts to prevent damage from a nuclear blast.
An Obama administration initiative to spend $7 billion on the development of the electric grid in six African nations, as Watchdog reported, earned a stern rebuke from a security expert concerned about the administration’s priorities.
But state level efforts are under way to protect the grid against solar flares and electromagnetic pulses.
As security experts work to raise awareness about surviving the potential destruction — caused by a shockwave after an explosion on the surface of the sun or nuclear weapons detonated in the Earth’s upper atmosphere — private companies are building technologies aimed at preventing the resultant damage.
Applied Energy, LLC., for example, is looking to test technology that prevents the electrical surge caused by an EMP.
Dan Princinsky, president of the fourteen-year-old Michigan-based company, wrote to Watchdog.org in April, saying his company’s technology was “the only patented product on the market that operates at the speed of current flow which is the only way to prevent the problem from occurring.”
“The only way to protect the grid is to get ahead of the event by using a product that works electro-magnetically so it can mitigate the problem as it is forming,” said Princinsky.
In a follow-up email, Princinsky told Watchdog.org he wondered why security experts appeared more concerned about surviving the damage created by an EMP than by preventing the damage in the first place.
Princinsky’s company is hardly alone.
EMP GRID Services, a consortium of electricity technology companies formed in April, began building in Pennsylvania for a Fortune 500 company a data center that could shield against EMPs and solar flares. On Aug. 8, the consortium announced a partnership with military contractor Armag Corporation to expand the kind of services it offers to protect electrical infrastructure.
Concern over the destruction inflicted by an EMP attack from North Korea has heightened since Congress created the first Congressional EMP Commission in 2001, but the electric grid’s vulnerability to disruptions associated with solar flares has been known for more than 150 years.
Industry watchers attribute the grid’s poor security to turf wars involving the federal government’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the international nonprofit North American Electric Reliability Corporation, as well as a lack of urgency by both organizations.
The Foundation for Resilient Societies, in a July op-ed in the Capitol Hill publication The Hill, for example, blasted NERC and FERC for a May 2013 vote against improving the physical security standards for the grid after six men with AK-47 machine guns shot up a substation in California.
Only after FERC report about leaked almost a year later did the agency pressure NERC to improve physical security.
George Noory, host of the popular late night radio show Coast to Coast AM, announced Aug. 4 the launch of a campaign, with the help of Joseph Farrah, founder and editor-in-chief of WND.com, to raise awareness about the EMP threat and urge Congress to act to protect the grid.
“It is not a matter of if, but when we will experience an EMP event or attack,” said Noory in a press statement.
CNBC reported at the end of July that billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer warned investors in a letter about the dangers of EMPs and solar flares.
“Why are we writing about this topic?” Singer wrote, “Because in any analysis of societal risk, EMP stands all by itself.”
Contact Josh Peterson at [email protected]. Follow Josh on Twitter at @jdpeterson