On November 5, 2012, FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s (the “Energy Committee”) Chairman, Fred Upton (R-MI), responding to several questions from Republican members of the Energy Committee about the jurisdiction, scope, and general nature of the recently-created Office of Energy Infrastructure Security (“OEIS”).  Chairman Wellinghoff explained in his letter that OEIS was created in response to “growing cyber and physical threats” to FERC jurisdictional facilities and infrastructure.  Chairman Wellinghoff also touted the new stand-alone office’s ability to leverage existing FERC resources and other government agencies with the private industry in a coordinated and focused manner.

On October 11, 2012, Chairman Upton, along with Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), and Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), sent a letter to Chairman Wellinghoff asking several questions about the creation and role of OEIS.  Among other things, the letter questioned the need and scope of OEIS, the funding for OEIS, and what statutory authority FERC relied upon in establishing OEIS.

Chairman Wellinghoff stated in his response that OEIS consolidates the Commission’s expertise on cyber and physical threats into one office.  Chairman Wellinghoff also detailed the four main areas of responsibility for OEIS regarding FERC-jurisdictional energy infrastructure.  These four areas are:

  1. Developing recommendations for identifying and communicating mitigating alternatives for potential cyber and physical security threats;
  2. Offering assistance, expertise and advice to other federal and state agencies, jurisdictional utilities, and Congress in addressing cyber and physical security threats;
  3. Participating in interagency and intelligence-related coordination and collaboration efforts with appropriate federal, state agencies and industry representatives on cyber and physical security matters; and
  4. Conducting outreach to improve the exchange of information with private sector owners, users, and operators of the energy delivery systems.

Chairman Wellinghoff also clarified that OEIS should not require additional funding for FERC because OEIS will concentrate existing expertise within one office.  As such, neither OEIS nor FERC will address reliability issues outside of FERC’s jurisdiction.  In terms of its authority, Chairman Wellinghoff explained that OEIS will not be responsible for orders or enforcement actions, nor will OEIS have any independent authority to act.  However, if FERC relies on any OEIS information, the Commission’s action will be pursuant to its existing statutory authority.

Additionally, Chairman Wellinghoff stated that OEIS will not supplant the role of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) in developing reliability standards for the Bulk Power System.  Instead, OEIS will be “complementary to, not a replacement of, FERC’s regulatory processes for reliability.”  Finally, Chairman Wellinghoff addressed the Energy Committee’s concern of overlap with the Department of Energy (“DOE”) by stating that OEIS will “continue to work with and support DOE” in its role of coordinating efforts with other government entities.

A link to Chairman Wellinghoff’s letter is available here.