Bottom Line Energy Issues - October 2001- Infrastructure Security Claims More Attention

Oct. 8, 2001

The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 focused attention on energy security from several directions. A public poll conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide showed a dramatic increase in the number of Americans who see increasing domestic energy production as a key to protecting our national security. The survey clearly showed that Americans feel a new unease about their personal security and are looking to government to protect them from future acts of terrorism. Security was tightened at power plants, refineries, and pipelines while producers and utilities attempted to communicate reassurances to customers. Nevertheless, the Union of Concerned Scientists warned that security rules of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were made obsolete on Sept. 11 because they currently do not require power plants to be protected against attacks by aircraft, boats, or trucks. Pending plans to transfer all responsibility for security at the nation's 104 nuclear plants to owners came under new criticism. Paul Leventhal, Pres. of the Nuclear Control Institute said the government should station National Guard troops and anti-aircraft units at all nuclear plants until the terrorist threat is controlled.

Senate Energy Committee chair, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) first delayed further discussion of the Bush national energy policy to concentrate on immediate concerns for safety of nuclear power plants and the far flung interstate system of power lines and gas pipe lines. Recently he announced that hearings on the policy debate will reconvene after Oct. 14. He said, "I am confident that Congress and the Administration will come together to combine thoughtful, forward looking analysis of our current energy challenges with a willingness to take bold steps to address them." Whatever the outcome, it appears that FERC will be given a leading role in helping to increase domestic fuel production to reduce dependency upon uncertain oil from the Persian Gulf. Incoming Chair, Pat Wood reported the agency's highest priority was to help natural gas, oil, and electricity firms tighten security for their pipelines and transmission lines. The agency said it would expedite claims to recover costs of new security measures that might be needed.

Leaders of the three major energy production associations, America Petroleum Institute, American Gas Association, and Edison Electric Association, all said their members were in a better position to detect and prevent a problem because of systems installed to deal with the potential Year 2000 (Y2K) issues. "One of the dividends of Y2K is the benefit of being able to check the integrity of all our systems and the ability to isolate problems if they develop," said Red Cavaney, Pres. of API. Edison Electric Institute has organized a special task force that will examine existing security measures then "turn inside out to find areas that may need improvement."

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