Rep. Trent Franks drafted a letter to the US Congress expressing his concern that the effects of EMPs are being understated. A press release was issued by Kissimmee Utility Authority after the airing of the National Geographic docudrama titled “American Blackout.” It was headlined, “No Need for Panic.”
Franks has requested a expeditious response to his letter, that clarifies the organization’s stance on this issue.
We note that the industry has often issued such casual assurances when confronted with evidence – including that contained in no fewer than five different federal government studies in recent years – that a sustained blackout would be catastrophic. Rather than address this conclusion forthrightly and ensure that corrective actions are taken to prevent such an event, or at least minimize its likelihood, NERC and many of the utilities it represents have historically tried to deflect attention and trivialize the threat.
Such behavior is all the more astounding given that we know the grid could be disrupted possibly for a period of time far beyond that depicted in the American Blackout docudrama as a result not only of cyber warfare, but also due to man-induced physical destruction through tactical attacks using radio frequency weapons or brute force techniques. There are also the far more grave scenarios, such as a State or Non-State actor’s use of a nuclear weapon detonated high above the United States to generate high-altitude electromagnetic pulses (EMP) or the growing probability that our planet will be exposed at some point in the foture to significant naturally occurring geomagnetic disturbances (GMD). A severe version of either of these latter possibilities represents a catastrophic threat to the United States of widespread power loss for potentially months or years that could result in American society tearing itself apait and a horrific loss of human life.
In light of these dangers, we want to establish whether you and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation share the view of the utility in Kissimmee? Or do you believe the public should be concerned that the grid may be offline for extended periods? This question is of more than academic interest to those of us in the Congress in light of the upcoming exercise, GridEx II, that NERC and electric utilities across the country will conduct next week. Presumably, this drill is meant to provide meaningful, objective, and useable evidence to map the grid’s vulnerabilities and lay out what needs to be done to eliminate them wherever possible.
If, however, NERC and others involved in planning and executing GridEx II are dismissive of those who believe such vulnerabilities exist- and ifthe planners are intent on using the exercise to hide, rather than expose, these shortcomings – GridEx may actually be a grave disservice to the consumer, to the public more generally and perhaps to America’s vital national security.
We would appreciate an expeditious response to this letter that clarifies your organization’s stance on these matters and that of the industry you represent. It would be particularly helpful ifthe requested response were provided before GridEx II gets underway, in order to permit, if necessary, adjustments in the planning scenario and conduct of the exercise so as to ensure the exercise’ s realism and maximize its usefulness.
See the letter below.