Different and multiple hazards, such as severe weather conditions in land and at sea, droughts, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes, pose a serious threat to the Caribbean, which is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world. Combined, geological and hydro-meteorological hazards have affected more than 100 million people in the region, causing significant economic losses and casualties.
The development of Early Warning Systems has been identified by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement as a key pathway to prevent disasters and reduce the negative impacts of multiple hazards.
As defined by the UNDRR, Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems are "an integrated system of hazard monitoring, forecasting and prediction, disaster risk assessment, communication and preparedness activities systems and processes that enables individuals, communities, governments, businesses and others to take timely action to reduce disaster risks in advance of hazardous events".
The Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems Initiative (CREWS) is a mechanism that provides financial support to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to establish risk-informed early warning services, implemented by three partners, based on clear operational procedures. CREWS has recently donated an additional $1 million to support the project Strengthening Hydro-Meteorological and Early Warning Services in the Caribbean , which will be implemented by UNDRR in 2022.
The project aims to strengthen Early Warning Services (EWS) in the Caribbean and to articulate the response capacity of individuals, institutions, and communities through the development of a regional strategy to strengthen and streamline early warning and hydro-meteorological services. This includes developing appropriate approaches to risk-informed decision-making for EWS, identifying gaps in risk assessment at regional and national levels, and evaluating the resilience of already existing infrastructure such as forecasting centres, shelters, and National Meteorological and Hydrological Services. The project will also examine opportunities for building partnerships with the private sector and assess socio-economic benefits to ensure the sustainability of investments and activities.
This project aligns with the Sendai Framework and focuses on the implementation of target G, which aims to “substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to people by 2030”. The Sendai 7 campaign of the 2022 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction will be focusing on this same target. Ensuring access to Multi -hazard Early Warning Systems in the Caribbean is regarded as a tool that enables individuals, communities, governments, businesses, and other stakeholders to take timely action to reduce disaster risk in advance of hazardous events.
This is also a matter of urgency, as disclosed in the Regional Assessment Report on Disaster Risk in Latin America and the Caribbean (RAR21), published last year: “In the short and medium term the occurrence of new mega-disasters in the region is almost inevitable given the extreme risk embedded there. It is therefore urgent to strengthen corrective and reactive management capabilities, especially early warning systems, preparedness and response.”
Federal agencies with a lead role to assist and protect one or more of the nation's 16 critical infrastructures are referred to as sector risk management agencies (SRMAs). The SRMAs for three of the 16 have determined the extent of their sector's adoption of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity (framework). In doing so, lead agencies took actions such as developing sector surveys and conducting technical assessments mapped to framework elements. SRMAs for four sectors have taken initial steps to determine adoption (see figure). However, lead agencies for nine sectors have not taken steps to determine framework adoption.
Status of Framework Adoption by Critical Infrastructure Sector
Regarding improvements resulting from sector-wide use, five of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors' SRMAs have identified or taken steps to identify sector-wide improvements from framework use, as GAO previously recommended. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency identified an approximately 32 percent overall increase in the use of framework-recommended cybersecurity controls among the 146 water utilities that requested and received voluntary technical assessments. In addition, SRMAs for the government facilities sector identified improvements in cybersecurity performance metrics and information standardization resulting from federal agencies' use of the framework. However, SRMAs for the remaining 11 sectors did not identify improvements and were not able to describe potential successes from their sectors' use of the framework.
SRMAs reported various challenges to determining framework adoption and identifying sector-wide improvements. For example, they noted limitations in knowledge and skills to implement the framework, the voluntary nature of the framework, other priorities that may take precedence over framework adoption, and the difficulty of developing precise measurements of improvement were challenges to measuring adoption and improvements. To help address challenges, NIST launched an information security measurement program in September 2020 and the Department of Homeland Security has an information network that enables sectors to share best practices. Implementing GAO's prior recommendations on framework adoption and improvements are key factors that can lead to sectors pursuing further protection against cybersecurity threats.
The U.S. has 16 critical infrastructure sectors that provide clean water, gas, banking, and other essential services. To help protect them, in 2014 the National Institute of Standards and Technology developed cybersecurity standards and procedures that organizations within these sectors may voluntarily use. Federal agencies are charged with leading efforts to improve sector security.
The GAO have found agencies have measured the adoption of these standards and procedures for 3 of 16 sectors and have identified improvements across 2 sectors. For example, the EPA found a 32% increase in the use of recommended cybersecurity controls at 146 water utilities.
As climate change increases disaster risks across the country, emergency managers and government officials are beginning to implement strategies to build community resilience. FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience provides a roadmap of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) programs and initiatives that advance community climate resilience. FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience assists FEMA’s state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) partners in navigating the FEMA resources that are available to support communities in mitigating impacts of climate change.
Building resilience is a long-term, ongoing cycle that requires multiple steps to accomplish. Each section of the FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience corresponds with a step in that cycle and provides information about FEMA services, programs, and grants available to SLTT partners. Each SLTT partner has a unique experience with FEMA and has participated in different elements of the resilience cycle. SLTT partners with limited FEMA experience may choose to start from the beginning of FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience, while other SLTT partners may navigate directly to their program of choice.
Each section of FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience provides a brief description of the program, service, or grant, an overview of who can apply, examples of the FEMA programs in action, and helpful tools and resources for learning more about the program, service, or grant. In addition, where applicable, FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience also points out areas where equity can be prioritized. FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience explains how existing tools, such as the National Risk Index (Risk Index), can assist SLTT governments and their communities, right now, in making informed planning decisions including considerations of impacts from future weather conditions.
FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience also provides a quick glance at FEMA funding sources, such as the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, designed to support communities in building capability and capacity to mitigate the increasing impacts of climate change.
FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience is available to download at https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/documents/fema_resources-climate-resilience.pdf
The Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas has issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin regarding the continued heightened threat environment across the United States. This is the fifth NTAS Bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security since January 2021.
“DHS remains committed to proactively sharing timely information and intelligence about the evolving threat environment with the American public,” said Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “We also remain committed to working with our partners across every level of government and in the private sector to prevent all forms of terrorism and targeted violence, and to support law enforcement efforts to keep our communities safe. This NTAS Bulletin outlines the key factors that have increased the volatility, unpredictability, and complexity of the current threat environment, and highlights resources for individuals and communities to stay safe.”
The United States remains in a heightened threat environment fueled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information (MDM) introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors. These threat actors seek to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest, which could potentially inspire acts of violence. Mass casualty attacks and other acts of targeted violence conducted by lone offenders and small groups acting in furtherance of ideological beliefs and/or personal grievances pose an ongoing threat to the nation.
While the conditions underlying the heightened threat landscape have not significantly changed over the last year, the convergence of the following factors has increased the volatility, unpredictability, and complexity of the threat environment: (1) the proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions; (2) continued calls for violence directed at U.S. critical infrastructure; soft targets and mass gatherings; faith-based institutions, such as churches, synagogues, and mosques; institutions of higher education; racial and religious minorities; government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement and the military; the media; and perceived ideological opponents; and (3) calls by foreign terrorist organizations for attacks on the United States based on recent events.
DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) continue to share timely and actionable information and intelligence with the broadest audience possible. This includes sharing information and intelligence with our partners across every level of government and in the private sector. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, DHS is prioritizing combating all forms of terrorism and targeted violence, including through its efforts to support the first-ever National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. Since January 2021, DHS has taken several steps in this regard, including:
established a new domestic terrorism branch within DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis dedicated to producing sound, timely intelligence needed to counter domestic terrorism-related threats;
designated domestic violent extremism as a “National Priority Area” within DHS’s Homeland Security Grant Program for the first time, resulting in at least $77 million being spent on preventing, preparing for, protecting against, and responding to related threats nationwide;
provided $180 million in funding to support target hardening and other physical security enhancements to non-profit organizations at high risk of terrorist attack through DHS’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP);
increased efforts to identify and evaluate MDM, including false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories spread on social media and other online platforms, that endorse violence; and,
enhanced collaboration with public and private sector partners – including U.S. critical infrastructure owners and operators – to better protect our cyber and physical infrastructure and increase the Nation’s cybersecurity through the Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
DHS also has renewed its commitment to ensure that all efforts to combat domestic violent extremism are conducted in ways consistent with privacy protections, civil rights and civil liberties, and all applicable laws.
This NTAS Bulletin will expire on June 7, 2022. This NTAS Bulletin provides the public with information about the threat landscape facing the United States, how to stay safe, and resources and tools to help prevent an individual’s radicalization to violence. The public should report any suspicious activity or threats of violence to local law enforcement, FBI Field Offices, or a local Fusion Center.
The second amendment of the Ordinance on the Designation of Critical Infrastructures under the BSI Act entered into effect on January 1, 2022. Such amendment broadens the definition of “critical infrastructures,” which are of particular relevance for Germany’s foreign direct investment screening regime.
This amendment follows the latest update (the 17th amendment) to the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance (Außenwirtschaftsverordnung, AWV) which entered into effect on May 1, 2021. Such amendment materially expanded the catalogue of sectors of particular relevance to Germany’s order and security and introduced more differentiated thresholds.
In addition, since May 28, 2021, a mandatory foreign direct investment (FDI) filing is triggered if the German target business develops or manufactures certain IT components which are used in critical infrastructures (so-called critical components).
The second amendment of the Ordinance on the Designation of Critical Infrastructures under the BSI Act (BSI-KritisV or Law) comprehensively revises the definitions and thresholds required to designate critical infrastructures (energy, water, nutrition, IT and telecommunication, health, finance and insurance, and transport and traffic). The following amendments of the Law will likely have the most significant impact on German FDI screening, further increasing the number of notifications to the German Ministry of Economics and Climate Action:
Definition of a “Facility”: The concept of a “facility” is generally an essential prerequisite for the assumption of a critical infrastructure under the BSI-KritisV. In addition to premises and other fixed installations, machinery, equipment, and other mobile installations, the updated “facility” definition now also explicitly includes software and IT services necessary for the provision of a critical service for the operation of a critical infrastructure. Relevant software and IT services do not need to be specially developed for the operation of critical infrastructures to fall in the scope of the updated “facility” definition. This may result in third-party IT and software service providers being designated as operators of a critical infrastructure.
Energy Sector: The thresholds for power plants to be considered a critical infrastructure were lowered from 420 megawatts to 104 megawatts. Further, the updated BSI-KritisV introduces new categories of facilities (trading systems and facilities relevant for the trade of gas or petroleum) and also lowers the existing threshold for trading systems and facilities relevant for the trade of electricity from 200 terawatt-hours to 3.7 terawatt-hours per year.
IT and Telecommunication Sector: The Law reduces the existing thresholds for internet exchange points (IXPs)—number of connected autonomous systems (annual average)—from 300 to 100, as well as the thresholds for computer centers/housing—contractually agreed installed power in megawatts—from 5 megawatts to 3.5 megawatts.
Health Sector: The Law introduces a new facility category, the so-called “laboratory information network”. A laboratory information network is a network of facilities or systems that provide IT services for diagnosis and therapy control in human medicine for at least one laboratory.
Finance and Insurance Sector: The Law introduces new facility categories related to the trading in securities and derivatives. These concern systems for generating orders for trading securities and derivatives and forwarding them to a trading venue exceeding 6,750,000 transactions per year; trading systems (as defined in Article 4 number 24 of Directive 2014/65/EU) exceeding 850,000 transactions per year; and other depository management systems exceeding 6,750,000 transactions per year.
Transport Sector: The Law introduces new facility categories—for instance, air and port traffic control centers, port information systems, and others.
The amendment of the Law will increase the number of businesses designated to be operators of a critical infrastructure. The Federal Ministry of Interior and Community estimated in this respect that the number of operators of critical infrastructures will increase from a total of approximately 1,600 to a total of approximately 1,870.
Operators of critical infrastructures are primarily subject to the obligations of the BSI-KritisV, in particular, notification of IT security breaches. In addition, the broadened definition of critical infrastructures may increase the number of mandatory notifiable transactions under the German FDI provisions. Foreign investors should therefore factor this into their diligence efforts when considering the acquisition of voting rights in German domiciled companies.
Almost 350,000 miles of interstate gas and hazardous liquid transmission pipelines transport products across the U.S. The quality of individual components used in constructing these pipelines is critical to protect life, property, and the environment.
The GAO reviewed data on the quality of fittings, flanges, and valves on interstate transmission pipelines, and found that manufacturing defects rarely contribute to accidents. For instance, such defects contributed to less than 2% of all accidents between 2016-2020. They caused zero deaths or hospitalizations, and spilled fewer gallons of hazardous liquid (on average) than other types of accidents.
Manufacturing defects involving certain pipelines components—specifically fittings, flanges, and valves—accounted for less than 2 percent (23 of 1,529) of all accidents on gas and hazardous liquid interstate transmission pipelines from 2016 through 2020, according to GAO's analysis of Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) data. During this period, none of the reported 10 fatalities or 24 injuries requiring in-patient hospitalizations were related to accidents involving such defects. The amount of product released was also lower than average for all accidents that GAO reviewed. For example, accidents involving manufacturing defects in these pipeline components resulted in the spillage of 69 barrels of hazardous liquid on average, compared to an average release of 242 barrels for all accidents. Many selected stakeholders GAO interviewed also said that manufacturing defects in pipeline components rarely contribute to accidents.
All selected operators GAO interviewed described taking a number of steps to design, inspect, and test pipeline components to ensure quality prior to placing the components into service. Many of these selected operators described taking steps above PHMSA's minimum safety standards. For example, some operators described conducting inspections of manufacturers' processes or requiring manufacturers to maintain voluntary management and design certifications. According to these selected operators, these actions help ensure that manufacturers have the skills and expertise to construct high-quality pipeline components. While selected operators generally did not describe additional testing steps, many of these operators and other stakeholders agreed that defects are often identified during the testing of components. Specifically, PHMSA generally requires that operators conduct a hydrostatic test—whereby the pipeline is pressurized to a level above the normal operating pressure—to ensure the integrity of the pipe and components prior to the pipeline being placed in service.
The U.S. pipeline network includes almost 350,000 miles of interstate gas and hazardous liquid transmission pipelines that operate at high pressures and transport products across the country. The integrity of individual components used in constructing these pipelines is critical to protect life, property, and the environment. These components include fittings to accommodate changes in terrain or direction of the pipe; flanges to connect pipes and other equipment together; and valves to help control the flow and pressure of product in the pipe.
Within the U.S. Department of Transportation, PHMSA sets and enforces the federal minimum pipeline safety standards for pipelines and pipeline facilities, including for the design and manufacture of components. The minimum safety standards apply to owners and operators of pipeline facilities rather than the manufacturers of components.
Due to potential concerns about the manufacturing process for pipeline components, GAO was asked to review the quality of fittings, flanges, and valves on interstate transmission pipelines. This report describes: (1) the extent to which manufacturing defects in pipeline components have contributed to accidents from 2016 through 2020, and (2) the actions selected pipeline operators have taken to ensure the quality of components manufactured for their pipelines.
GAO analyzed PHMSA's accident data on interstate transmission pipelines for gas and hazardous liquid—including number, item involved, cause, related fatalities and injuries, and amount of product released—from 2016 through 2020, the most recent 5-year period for which data were available. GAO assessed the reliability of the data by reviewing PHMSA reports and interviewing PHMSA officials, among other things, and found the data to be sufficiently reliable to describe the frequency in which manufacturing defects contributed to reportable pipeline accidents.
GAO also reviewed relevant pipeline safety statutes and regulations, including those addressing the safety of pipeline components. GAO interviewed officials from PHMSA and the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as representatives from 10 pipeline operators, six industry associations, four pipeline manufacturers, three standards-setting organizations, and one safety group. GAO selected operators that manage interstate transmission pipelines, but vary in size (number of pipeline miles managed); commodities transported (i.e., natural gas and hazardous liquids); accident history; and geographic location. GAO selected the remaining stakeholders based on, among other things, inclusion in prior GAO reports, recommendations from stakeholders, or references in PHMSA's regulations.
In early September, Hurricane Ida caused a massive blackout, leaving New Orleans in the dark for more than two days. A month before Ida, Tropical Storm Henri cut power to 100,000 households in Rhode Island. The wildfires in the western United States are common sources of blackouts in California. And earlier this year in Central Texas, harsh winter conditions led to a breakdown of the state’s electric grid, leaving one million people without heat and electricity for days.
These types of events are increasing in frequency as the nation’s infrastructure ages and climate change leads to extreme weather events. Hotter, wetter summers and harsher winters require more reliance on heating and cooling utilities, placing higher stress on the nation’s electric grid. For nearly a decade and a half, the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has teamed up with industry and one of the nation’s largest (and windiest) cities to study how technology can ‘help keep the lights on’ during emergencies. This fall, S&T and its partners announced the fruits of this labor: the successful installation and operation of the Resilient Electric Grid (REG) system in Chicago.
How the Electric Grid Works
This is a simplified arrangement of the grid system in the U.S. At the Generation step, electricity is generated at various kinds of power plants by utilities and independent power producers. The plant has lines leading to a transmission substation. The next step is Transmission where electric transmission is the vital link between power production and power usage. There are transmission lines from the generating plant that carry electricity at high voltages over long distances from power plants to communities. These lines lead to a Substation. At the bottom of the image are three light gray buildings with yellow windows, and the bottom right of the image are tall dark gray buildings. Lines from the substation lead to these buildings to represent the Distribution step, where electricity from transmission lines is reduced to lower voltages at substations, and distribution companies then bring the power to your home and workplace. Power lines lead from the Substation to another Substation to the right of the image. Lines from this substation lead to a farm and four houses.The electric grid is a complex network that spans the creation of electricity at a power generation station to the delivery of electricity to the end user. To get from the generation site to the end user, often several (possibly hundreds of) miles away, electricity travels through the transmission system, which converts the very high voltage electricity generated by the power plant to lower voltages. The electricity is further stepped down in voltage through the distribution network as it gets closer to homes, business, and other facilities. Major urban communities have multiple distribution level substations throughout the city to meet the electrical power needs of its population.
Ideally, these distribution substations would be interconnected, so if one substation fails for any reason, another can step in and provide electricity—like driving on system of highways, streets, and roads where you have multiple routes that can get you to the same destination. In reality, however, distribution substations are not interconnected. This is a designed safety feature in the grid so that an issue at one substation, such as a fault current (a large spike in electric current) doesn’t cascade down through the system and impact other substations.
As a result of this set up, if a substation fails, the area that that substation serves experiences a blackout. But what if we could prevent the risk associated with connecting substations so that in the event of a substation failure, other substations could step in and “help” continue to deliver power, creating multiple paths for power to flow just like how traffic flows on the internet?
S&T Powered (and Empowered) a Solution
Finding a solution to increase grid resilience inspired S&T to launch its REG project back in 2007. The project built on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) previous research on High Temperature Superconducting (HTS) cables.
S&T’s Sarah Mahmood, an electrical engineer, led the S&T project team in collaboration with American Superconductor (AMSC), a leading system provider of megawatt-scale power resiliency solutions.
Together, the team developed REG systems featuring cable systems that utilize AMSC’s proprietary Amperium® HTS technology designed to suppress surges while providing the ability to connect substations without risking a cascading fault current.
“Substations are usually not connected because of the risk of fault currents. It’s like a surge. In your house, you use a surge protector. If you don’t have protection against fault currents, you risk damaging the equipment downstream. But because they’re not connected, they lack resiliency,” Mahmood explained.
How a Superconductor Works
HTS cables use liquid nitrogen to keep the cable cool enough to function in a superconducting state. If the HTS cable experiences a fault, the fault creates energy which heats up the system so that it is no longer in a superconducting state, essentially turning itself off automatically, like a switch, preventing equipment damage. What’s more, because HTS cables are superconducting there is very little resistance or loss of power over the length of the cable making them more efficient compared to traditional power cables, which experience a loss of power over distance.
After years of research, development and lab testing to prove the concept of a fault current limiting high temperature superconducting cable, S&T and AMSC partnered with Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), the largest electric utility in Illinois serving over four-million customers, to integrate the technology in the grid.
“S&T is grateful for the partnership with ComEd enabling us to install the REG system in the grid as a permanent asset, hopefully setting a pathway for broader market adoption of this new capability by industry as a potential solution to increase grid resilience,” Mahmood explained.
“The successful integration of the REG system is a major milestone in our efforts to enhance our service to customers through innovation,” said Terence R. Donnelly, President and COO of ComEd. “The increasingly frequent and severe weather events associated with climate change and the need for enhanced cyber and physical security require grid investments that will sustain the high levels of safe and reliable power that our customers depend on.”
HTS Technology Brings Resiliency to Power Grid Operations
A stable homeland is dependent on the reliable delivery of electricity—from public health to the economy and national security. According to DOE's Grid Modernization and the Smart Grid project, there are more than 9,200 electric generating units with more than 1 million megawatts of generating capacity feeding more than 600,000 miles of transmission lines that comprise the U.S. electric grid.
“Our superconductor-based REG system improved the reliability and resiliency of the grid, reducing disruption to public infrastructure and saving money for utility customers—all in an environmentally-friendly manner,” said Daniel P. McGahn, Chairman, President & CEO, AMSC. “We believe this accomplishment opens opportunities for AMSC to deploy REG systems to other innovative utilities.”
On September 30, DHS and DOE participated in a ribbon-cutting in Chicago to highlight the REG system installation into the ComEd grid. ComEd is the first utility in the United States to permanently install the AMSC REG system into the grid and will evaluate connecting it to multiple substations in order to create a back-up system for continuous power delivery even with a disruption to the power grid.
“S&T will continue to monitor the REG system’s performance with hopes for future commercialization, as other utilities look to increase grid resiliency,” said Mahmood.
According to a DOE study, the United States loses nearly $70 billion each year from power outages. S&T’s continued research and development efforts aim to enhance the nation’s overall energy resilience, so future generations can keep the lights on.
The nation’s grid delivers electricity that is essential for modern life. However, the grid faces risks from events that can damage electrical infrastructure (such as power lines) and communications systems, resulting in power outages. These outages can threaten the nation’s economic and national security.
They can also disproportionately affect low-income groups, in part because such groups have fewer resources to invest in backup generators and other measures to minimize the impact of outages.Even though most of the electricity grid is owned and operated by private industry, the federal government plays a key role in enhancing grid resilience.
• The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for coordinating the overall federal effort to promote the security and resilience of the nation’s critical infrastructure sectors.
• The Department of Energy (DOE) leads federal efforts to support electricity grid resilience, including research and technology development by national laboratories.
• The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reviews and approves standards developed by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the federally designated U.S. electric reliability organization.
The electricity grid faces multiple risks that can cause widespread power outages.
- Extreme weather and climate change
- Cyber- and physical attacks
- Electromagnetic events
In addition to the risks described in the prior page, the electric utility industry faces complex challenges and transformations, including:
• aging infrastructure;
• adoption of new technologies, such as information and communication systems
to improve the grid’s efficiency; and
• a changing mix of power generation. The traditional model of large, centralized power generators is evolving as retiring generators are replaced with variable wind and solar generators, smaller and more flexible natural gas generators, and nontraditional resources. Such resources include demand-response activities which encourage consumers to reduce their demand for electricity when the cost to generate electricity are high, and various technologies (e.g., solar panels) that generate electricity at or near where it will be used—known as “distributed generation.”
Agencies have implemented several of GAO’s recommendations for improving electricity grid resilience. For example, in March 2016, we recommended that DHS designate roles and responsibilities within the department for addressing electromagnetic risks, which DHS did in 2017. However, as of September 2021, agencies had not yet implemented a number of GAO recommendations that represent key opportunities to mitigate risks in the following areas:
- Extreme weather and climate change - Prioritize efforts and target resources effectively. Enhance grid resilience efforts. Better manage climate-related risks
- Cyberattacks - Assess all cybersecurity risks. Address risks to distribution systems Consider changes to current standards. Evaluate potential risks of a coordinated attack
FEMA has approved grants of more than $4.7 million for two hazard mitigation projects for the city of Panama City to reduce its risk of critical facility failure during future disasters. Funding from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) was approved in response to a proposal by the city after Hurricane Michael in 2018.
Millville Wastewater Treatment Plant: $2,653,956 for the purchase and installation of twin permanent generators to support the critical operations of the plant. They will be connected to the main electrical transfer system by a switchgear and an underground duct bank, which provide a protected pathway for electrical transmission and allow the city to provide continued service to the community during future power outages.
Sanitary Sewer Lift Stations: $2,052,265 for Phase One in a proposed project to provide flood protection and improvements to 13 sanitary sewer lift stations within the city, including surveying, engineering, design, plan preparation, permitting and the bidding for Phase Two approval. If approved, the project proposes different mitigation actions depending on the needs and assessment of each of the 13 sites to include relocation, elevation or strengthening against storm surge and wave-action hazards.
The HMGP provides funding to help communities eliminate or reduce disaster-related damage. Following a major disaster, a percentage of a state’s total federal recovery grants is calculated to help develop more resilient communities. Florida has an Enhanced Hazard Mitigation Plan that allows more funding to be available for post-disaster resilience projects. States with the enhanced plan receive HMGP funds based on 20% of their total estimated eligible federal disaster assistance.
The Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) required TC Energy to take additional safety measures specified in a special permit as conditions of allowing certain portions of the Keystone Pipeline (Keystone) to operate at a higher stress level than allowed by regulation. PHMSA reviewed technical information and drew on its experience granting similar permits to natural gas pipelines to develop 51 conditions with which TC Energy must comply. Most pipeline safety and technical stakeholders GAO interviewed agreed the conditions offset the risks of operating at a higher stress level. However, PHMSA did not allow TC Energy to fully operate Keystone at this higher stress level until 2017, after TC Energy replaced pipe affected by industry-wide pipeline quality issues.
Keystone's accident history has been similar to other crude oil pipelines since 2010, but the severity of spills has worsened in recent years. Similar to crude oil pipelines nationwide, most of Keystone's 22 accidents from 2010 through 2020 released fewer than 50 barrels of oil and were contained on operator-controlled property such as a pump station. The two largest spills in Keystone's history in 2017 and 2019 were among the six accidents that met PHMSA's criteria for accidents “impacting people or the environment.” According to PHMSA's measures for these more severe types of accidents, from 2010 to 2020 TC Energy performed better than nationwide averages, but worse in the past five years due to the 2017 and 2019 spills.
The Keystone Pipeline has transported over 3 billion barrels of crude oil from Canada to U.S. refineries since 2010. Keystone's accident history is similar to other pipelines, but the severity of its spills has worsened in recent years due to 2 large spills in 2017 and 2019.
The Department of Transportation required Keystone operator TC Energy to investigate and address the root causes of the 4 largest spills. DOT has also issued enforcement actions and civil penalties for problems like inadequate corrosion prevention. Based on Keystone "lessons learned," DOT has increased inspection resources for other pipelines during construction.
In response to each of Keystone's four largest spills, PHMSA issued Corrective Action Orders requiring TC Energy to investigate the accidents' root causes and take necessary corrective actions. These investigations found that the four accidents were caused by issues related to the original design, manufacturing of the pipe, or construction of the pipeline. PHMSA also issued other enforcement actions and assessed civil penalties to TC Energy for deficiencies found during inspections, such as inadequate corrosion prevention and missing pipeline markers. Based in part on its experience overseeing Keystone, PHMSA officials said they have increased resources to conduct inspections during construction of other pipelines and are establishing a more formal process to document and track the compliance of all special permits, including Keystone's permit.