Lawmakers in the House and Senate on Wednesday introduced identical bills that would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the authority to issue emergency orders to protect the grid from physical, cyber, electromagnetic pulse and other threats and vulnerabilities.

The Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act was introduced separately by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) in the House and Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) in the Senate. It would allow FERC to issue orders to protect the reliability of the bulk power system if a grid security vulnerability is identified and FERC determines that it has not been adequately addressed through standards developed by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC). Under the bill, NERC could also get an opportunity to present recommendations regarding the rule or order.

Specifically, the bill directs FERC to promulgate a rule or issue an order within 180 days of the bill’s effective date to protect against the Aurora vulnerability, which affects nearly every electricity system worldwide and potentially any rotating equipment.

It also calls on FERC to direct NERC to develop a reliability standard to ensure enough spare large transformers are available to replace those that could be destroyed or disabled by a physical attack or geomagnetic storm.

Also, it proclaims that sensitive information related to grid security threats is protected from public disclosure.

The original GRID Act, first introduced in 2010, sailed through the House Energy and Commerce Committee by a vote of 47–0, and passed the House by voice vote, but it stalled in the Senate.

“Previous passage of the GRID Act in the House on a bipartisan basis is testament to our ability to reach consensus on this critical national security issue,” said Sen. Markey, original House co-author of the GRID Act, in a statement on Wednesday.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)