FERC restrictions on energy infrastructure data to begin Apr. 2
WASHINGTON, Mar. 24 -- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Apr. 2 initiates a new homeland security system that will restrict certain natural gas pipeline and power grid infrastructure information from the general public.
Under the final rule, the agency will have a
"critical energy infrastructure coordinator" that will
process requests for information seen as especially
sensitive. The coordinator will control access to data
the agency deems to be "critical infrastructure
information" that could be potentially useful to
terrorists and is exempt from disclosure under the
Freedom of Information Act.
FERC's final rule defines critical infrastructure as "existing and proposed systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, the incapacity or destruction of which would negatively affect security, economic security, public health or safety, or any combination of those matters." It includes both proposed and existing systems. FERC anticipates that some public interest and media groups may ask a court to strike down the rule. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Society of Environmental Journalists argue that the restrictions as written are broad and arbitrary, and do little to improve homeland security. They also maintain that the information in question is of little use to a terrorist but may be very important to local communities that are located near a natural gas pipeline or transmission wire.
FERC however does not agree with this argument. The commission said additional measures must be taken to protect the critical infrastructures it regulates, citing a statement by the US National Infrastructure Protection Center labeling energy infrastructures as key terrorist targets. (The Department of Transportation, under its Office of Pipeline Safety, overseas oil and gasoline pipelines and has placed its own homeland security-related restrictions on certain data it deems sensitive.)
The rule gives specific examples of protected and unprotected information.
To address public interest groups concerns, the
agency agreed to modify its information criteria so
that data that identifies the location of a pipeline or
transmission grid is not automatically considered to be
sensitive information. FERC also said it plans
releasing location information generally needed to
comply with environmental reviews.
Gas information that will be restricted as "critical" will be data that provides more than a facility location. They include diagrams of valve and piping details at compressor stations, meter stations, LNG facilities, and pipeline interconnections.
Other critical information will be flow diagrams and other drawings or diagrams showing similar details such as volumes and operating pressures, environmental resource reports for LNG facilities, and drawing matching labels with specific buildings onsite, e.g., central gas control centers or gas control buildings.
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