Markey, Booker Call on FERC to Strengthen Standards to Protect Electricity Grid from Damaging Solar Storms
olar storms hit the Earth every year, and larger storms have been known to cause damage to electrical infrastructure
Washington (September 14, 2015) — Last week, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, sent a letter to the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with concerns about the adequacy of a proposed reliability standard for keeping the electric grid safe from solar storms when they hit Earth (referred to as geomagnetic disturbances, or GMD), which have the potential to cause widespread blackouts and serious damage to the grid. Scientists have been warning of the hazards of solar storms for decades, and FERC has yet to put a standard in place that protects the electricity infrastructure on which we rely so heavily. A recent study from the National Aeronautic and Space Administration and the University of Colorado estimates that each decade there is a 12 percent chance of a catastrophic solar storm hitting the Earth that could leave 130 million Americans in the dark for more than a year.
“As you review the proposed standard, we urge you to ensure that the final standard protects the grid against the sort of realistic GMD events that studies predict we may experience and ensure that credible models are used to develop the standard itself,” write the Senators in the letter to FERC Chairman Norman Bay. “It appears that there may have been multiple GMD studies that may illustrate technical deficiencies with the NERC standard. At the same time, this critical information seems also to be missing from the FERC docket on this rulemaking.”
A copy of the Senators’ letter can be found HERE.
In 2010 and 2013, Senator Markey and then-Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) introduced the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act that provides FERC with the authority it needs to effectively address physical, cyber, geomagnetic disturbance, electromagnetic pulse, and other threats to and vulnerabilities of the electric grid. In 2010, the original GRID Act, introduced by then-Rep. Markey and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) was reported out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee by a vote of 47 to 0. It then passed the House by voice vote, but the Senate did not act on the legislation.