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House Republicans want documents on electric grid security from regulators

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House Republicans are adding their voices to a growing number of lawmakers concerned about federal regulators' management of sensitive information about the electric grid.

Capitol Hill has been buzzing about how the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission protects certain information following a Wall Street Journal story that, citing an agency analysis, said coordinated attacks at nine key substations could cause coast-to-coast blackouts for weeks, even months.

The letter from senior GOP Energy and Commerce Committee lawmakers, which was publicized Friday, follows an inspector general report that said FERC should have classified at least one presentation from the moment it was created.

"The [inspector general] Management Alert raises questions concerning FERC's management and controls of sensitive information pertaining to the integrity and security of electric grid and other critical infrastructure," the lawmakers wrote to FERC Acting Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur.

In the letter released Friday, the House Republicans asked LaFleur for the names of all agency employees who worked on grid security following a military-style attack by armed gunmen in April 2013 at the Metcalf substation near San Jose, Calif. They also asked for communications -- both internal and with the Energy Department -- and evaluations about grid security dating to 2012.

Lawmakers already had been pressuring FERC to improve physical security on the electric grid following the Metcalf incident. That pushed FERC in March to direct the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a nonprofit regulatory outfit that oversees electric utilities, to draft new physical security standards.

The Wall Street Journal story, however, inflamed the issue. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on electric grid security just before lawmakers left Washington for a two-week recess.

LaFleur told the Senate committee that she ordered an internal review of FERC's handling of its documents. She also criticized the Wall Street Journal for publishing stories on grid vulnerabilities.

"While there may be value in a general discussion of the steps we take to keep the grid safe, the publication of sensitive material about the grid crosses the line from transparency to irresponsibility, and gives those who would do us harm a roadmap to achieve malicious designs," she said in written testimony.

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