The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy, Climate, and Grid Security subcommittee voted unanimously today to approve the Energy Emergency Leadership Act (HR 3277), which would require that Energy Department cybersecurity and other energy security-related operations be assigned to an Assistant Secretary at the agency whose appointment would be confirmable by the Senate.


In practical effect, the legislation aims to make the head of DoE’s existing Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response (CESER) office into a Senate-confirmed position, said Rep. Tim Walberg, D-Mich., who is sponsoring the legislation, at today’s subcommittee markup session.


CESER’s stated mission is to “strengthen the security and resilience of the U.S. energy sector from cyber, physical, and climate-based risks and disruptions.”


A summary of the bill says it would amend the “Department of Energy Organization Act to include energy emergency and energy security among the functions that the Secretary of Energy shall assign to an Assistant Secretary.”


“The legislation would provide that the functions be assigned to an Assistant Secretary include responsibilities with respect to infrastructure, cybersecurity, emerging threats, supply and emergency planning, coordination, response, and restoration,” the summary says. “It would also provide that these functions include the provision of technical assistance, support, and response capabilities with respect to energy sector threats, risks, and incidents to State, local, and Tribal governments, and the energy sector.”


The bill also would require the DoE Secretary to “ensure that the departmental functions added by this legislation are performed in coordination with relevant Federal agencies.”


The legislation’s approval by the subcommittee today by a vote of 30-0 augurs well for its chances with the full committee, which will next take up the bill.


A previous version of the legislation was approved by the full House in 2021.


Rep. Walberg said at today’s markup session that the bill would make clear that “addressing threats to our energy reliability is of the highest importance.”


“As we become more reliant on technology in every aspect of our lives, it’s important to understand the magnitude of the risks associated with this dependence,” he said. “Our nation’s critical energy infrastructure, in particular, is a prime target for cyberattacks, and the … consequences of a successful attack could be catastrophic.”


“In addition, as energy systems become increasingly more complex, they have also become more vulnerable to all manner of hazards, including natural disasters, physical attacks, and global shortages,” he said. “We need to be better prepared.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.