Hill Updates: Senate Cybersecurity Bill and House Electric Grid Protection Bill

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The Rockefeller-Snowe Cybersecurity Act (S.773) was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee yesterday. Introduced by John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-WV) and Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), this Cybersecurity Act is the newest version of the legislation that has been under development for a year. The new bill varies from the original version in that it softens a provision that would have allowed the president to shut down some network operations during a cyber emergency. Additionally, it calls for the president and critical infrastructure industries to develop cybersecurity best practices that will be made mandatory for enforcement. TR Daily reported that Sens. Rockefeller and Snowe consider this bill to be the companion to the "National Cybersecurity Advisor Act" (S 778), which would create a new Presidential advisor position responsible for oversight and coordination of national cybersecurity policy.

On the House side, the House Energy and Commerce Energy and Environment Subcommittee approved the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act. This legislation grants the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the power to order preventive measures and protective actions to address threats to grid reliability and security caused by solar storms, direct physical attacks, electro-magnetic attacks and cyberattacks.  FERC would also be granted the authority to issue rules or orders mandating protective measures to address grid vulnerabilities, including that identified by the Aurora incident.  The bill will now proceeds to the full Energy and Commerce Committee for further review.  The Senate counterpart to GRID was approved last year by the Energy and Natural Resources as part of its more comprehensive energy bill, S. 1462, and awaits further Senate consideration as part of the climate change legislation deliberations.

Meanwhile, the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet held its hearing on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) earlier this morning. The witness statements presented by the FCC Commissioners can be found on the subcommittee's website. Earlier this week, FCC Chairman Genachowski was supposed to have testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on the NBP; the hearing has now been scheduled for April 14.




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