In a letter to Department of Energy Inspector General Gregory Friedman, U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chair Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) requested an investigation into sensitive information leaks suspected to have originated in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) offices.

The letter—dated March 27—stated that “Recent reports in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) about grid security were shocking in their detail and appear to have been based upon highly sensitive, narrowly distributed FERC documents that may have pinpointed vulnerabilities of the [bulk power system (BPS)].”

The referenced WSJ article suggested that terrorists could cause a nationwide blackout by simply impairing nine key substations in the U.S. electric-transmission system. The story identified a FERC study as the source of the information reporting the vulnerability. The article also noted that sabotage to a key transformer manufacturer could result in delays of at least 18 months in restoring normalcy because so few companies build transformers in the U.S.

The senators stated that they would consider introducing legislation to prevent disclosure of energy infrastructure information, if the inspector general determines that no current laws were broken by the information leaks.

“The release of information about potential vulnerabilities of our nation’s critical energy infrastructure could provide a road map to those who wish to harm the United States,” Murkowski said. “Whoever is the source of this leak is clearly putting our nation at risk.”

“As someone whose state has been struck by disasters—both natural and manmade—I understand the importance of protecting critical infrastructure,” said Landrieu. “I urge the inspector general to conduct a swift and thorough investigation of this leak to find its source and prevent another such leak from occurring in the future.”

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)