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White House hears from states on cybersecurity order

Key Obama advisor Ozment tracks progress of discussions

Rockville, MD (August 19, 2013) -- The White House and other federal agencies have in recent months stepped up their efforts to hear state regulators' suggestions for implementing President Barack Obama's executive order on cybersecurity, Andy Ozment, senior director for cybersecurity on the National Security Staff at the White House, told Smart Grid Today -- the leading independent, daily, professional news journal of the smart grid industry -- in an exclusive interview. Smart Grid Today publisher Modern Markets Intelligence, Inc. is sharing it here, free of charge.

The story has been slightly edited for this format and is included in its entirety here and at smartgridtoday.com/whitehouse.

The executive order tasked NIST with facilitating the development of voluntary best practices (SGT, Feb-14) that Ozment hopes will be broadly applicable across the utility industry.

Federal authorities have met with public utility commissions in "multiple different forums and ways," to discuss the executive order -- and they are looking to include in the discussion as many critical-infrastructure firms effected by the directive as possible, Ozment told us. "This is really part of our trying to raise awareness both about the threat and about the actions that the federal government is taking, as widely as we possibly can."

The White House recently publicized an update on the incentives it is considering to encourage firms to adopt the framework of best practices -- that will be released in February (SGT, Aug-7).

Rate case idea continues

One of the early ideas put forth by federal agencies is for state and local regulators to consider letting utilities factor investments related to implementing the executive order into their rate cases, Michael Daniel, special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator, wrote in the update.

There are generally two categories of incentives being considered, Ozment told Smart Grid Today: Those that could soon be adopted and those that are "predicated upon knowing what the cybersecurity framework looks like -- and we don't know that right now."

The rate-case incentive Daniel wrote about is in the latter category, so that would require letting the framework develop before knowing whether the incentive would be offered, Ozment explained.

Ozment does not see state-federal jurisdictions being an issue in carrying out the executive order, he told Smart Grid Today. He pointed to a June UTC summit where high-level officials from the Dept of Homeland Security, DOE and the White House had a chance to meet with NARUC President Philip Jones.

Jones, who has said he welcomes federal-state collaboration on cybersecurity, said publicly in March he was wary of federal encroachment of state jurisdictions on the issue (SGT, Mar-21).

QUOTABLE: The state jurisdictions in the electric sector… are quite clear. We absolutely appreciate the boundaries of those jurisdictions. -- Andy Ozment, senior director for cybersecurity on the National Security Staff at the White House, in an exclusive interview with Smart Grid Today

PUCs urged to list best practices

The White House is encouraging state PUCs to draw up their own cybersecurity best practices, Ozment said at a grid-cybersecurity conference the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) hosted in Washington, DC, this month. "We absolutely have asked state regulators to consider following exactly the same process we've done and to do whatever they think is appropriate to get this issue addressed at the state level," Ozment told the conference, in response to a question from Smart Grid Today and in reference to the executive order.

The "executive order is quite clear with respect to regulators," whether state, federal or local, he added. "We ask regulators to take a look at the cybersecurity framework once it's complete and take a look at their existing actions in their sector and see whether they need to take further action to ensure that their sector is secure."

Mays supports consistency

"We at the state level agree that there needs to be direction on the federal level," Indiana Utility Regulatory Commissioner Carolene Mays told the audience at the BPC conference. "Protocols, clarity and consistency need to be in place."

Since being named the chair of NARUC's Committee on Critical Infrastructure last month, Mays has met with multiple federal officials to try to foster greater collaboration on cybersecurity, she told Smart Grid Today in an exclusive interview (SGT, Aug-9).

This story was originally published in Smart Grid Today (smartgridtoday.com/whitehouse) on August 12, 2013 and has been slightly edited for this format.

ABOUT SMART GRID TODAY

SMART GRID TODAY'S MISSION is to deliver daily, unbiased, comprehensive and original reporting on emerging trends, applications and policies driving the modern utility industry -- in a signature format that features highly concise and easy-to-understand news copy based on trusted reporting, exclusive interviews, informed analysis and strategic insights that our subscribers rely on to succeed every business day. Smart Grid Today is published 247 times a year by Modern Markets Intelligence, Inc. (MMI), publisher of independent trade news for the evolving energy industry of the 21st century. It is located in Rockville, Md. Sam Spencer founded MMI in 2009 after writing, editing, marketing, publishing, running and inventing trade news publications and related products for over 20 years.

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