Updated Jun 11, 2018

Cybersecurity threats to U.S. gas pipelines call for stricter oversight

A natural gas pipeline in Colorado. Photo: Jerry Cleveland/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Foreign enemies are increasingly launching cyberattacks on U.S. critical infrastructure, including energy facilities. To protect against attacks that could compromise electric service, grid operators must comply with mandatory standards overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Yes, but: The U.S. has no comparable standards for its network of pipelines. As abundant and affordable natural gas has become a major part of the fuel mix, the cybersecurity threats to that supply have taken on new urgency.

The big picture: FERC has the authority to issue certificates for new interstate gas pipelines and to set their rates, but not to regulate their security. That charge falls to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the same agency that oversees 851 million aviation passengers per year, 138,000 miles of railroad track and 4 million miles of highway.

In May 2017, TSA confirmed that it had just 6 full-time employees tasked with securing the more than 2.7 million miles of natural gas, oil and hazardous liquid pipelines that traverse the country. Moreover, despite having the authority to enforce mandatory cybersecurity standards, the TSA relies on voluntary ones.

Given the high stakes, Congress should vest responsibility for pipeline security with an agency that fully comprehends the energy sector and has sufficient resources to address this growing threat. The Department of Energy (DOE) could be an appropriate choice: It is the Sector-Specific Agency for energy security and recently created its own cybersecurity office.

The ultimate regulator must have the statutory authority, resources and commitment to implement mandatory standards, as FERC has done for the electric grid for more than a decade. While the electric sector presents different operational risks, the essential starting point for these reforms is standards that are both mandatory and tailored to the pipeline network's greatest threats.

The bottom line: U.S. energy consumers depend on the electric grid. Its safety and security demand smart, effective, and up-to-date threat protections.

Neil Chatterjee and Richard Glick are both Commissioners at the FERC.

Go deeper

Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

Italy’s aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori fly over Milan in Duomo Square on May 25. Photo: Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images

The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,453,784 — Total deaths: 345,886 — Total recoveries — 2,191,310Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,651,254 — Total deaths: 97,850 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Top Boris Johnson aide defends himself after allegations he broke U.K. lockdown — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden makes first public appearance in over two months

Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in over two months on Monday to honor Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a Delaware veterans park, AP reports.

Why it matters: Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, has taken the unprecedented step of campaigning from his home during the coronavirus pandemic, ever since canceling a rally in Cleveland on March 10.