WASHINGTON — The top federal energy regulator said Thursday that her agency is taking steps to improve handling of classified national security information, following a report that officials improperly allowed widespread access to a document that outlined specific physical threats to the nation’s electric grid.
Cheryl LaFleur, acting chairwoman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told the Senate Energy Committee on Thursday that employees are “wiping and scrubbing all databases” and taking other steps to protect sensitive information.
The commission also has directed a nonprofit entity that oversees electric reliability to develop physical security standards for the grid by early June.
Adding to efforts
In issuing the order, the agency recognized that most utilities already have taken steps to identify critical structures and protect them from attack, LaFleur said.
“A mandatory standard will reinforce these efforts and ensure that all owners and operators of the bulk power system take such important steps where appropriate,” she said.
LaFleur’s testimony came a day after a government investigator said commission employees improperly allowed widespread access to a sensitive document that outlined specific locations where the nation’s electric grid is vulnerable to physical threats.
A document created by the commission in response to an April 2013 attack on a California substation should have been kept secret as a national security matter, Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman said Wednesday. Instead the information was provided in whole or in part to federal and industry officials in unsecured settings.