WASHINGTON – The Obama administration, on the eve of its transfer of power, is about to impose new standards to protect the nation’s life-sustaining electric grid from solar storms.
However, the new standards by a Democrat-dominated regulatory board, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will address only solar activities. Pointedly, it will not protect the vulnerable national grid from a man-made, high altitude, nuclear detonation that could create an electromagnetic pulse.
Such an EMP could have a catastrophic impact on the nation’s technology-based, life-sustaining critical infrastructures.
In an email to WND, William R. Graham, who was director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and science adviser to President Ronald Reagan, warned that the FERC has scheduled a ruling on Jan. 19 – the day before Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States – that is supposed to protect the United States from an EMP.
However, the FERC’s planned ruling “is likely to have far-ranging, seriously counterproductive national security implications,” according to Graham, who was chairman of the 2008 congressionally mandated EMP Commission.
The commission examined the impact of an EMP on the nation’s critical infrastructures that depend on the national grid system.
Graham said the FERC’s impending action is inadequate and will have a “significant near-term impact on our national security, especially in view of recent moves by North Korea to establish an EMP-attack capability with (intercontinental ballistic missiles), nuclear missile-carrying submarines and satellites.”
“A Nation Forsaken” warns of the growing threat from an EMP, either from a natural solar event or an attack from America’s enemies. Threatened are not only the nation’s power lines, but its banking, fuel supply and even food distribution systems.
Because of the continued threat of an EMP not only from a natural solar storm but also from a man-made high-altitude nuclear detonation, Congress last year renewed the commission in section 1089 of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.
As chairman of the EMP Commission, Graham warned back in 2008 that the United States is especially vulnerable since its critical interdependent infrastructures rely, more than most other nations, on electronic components.
While the electrical grid and electronic components have given the U.S. major economic, industrial and societal advantages, Graham previously has testified to Congress that these critical interdependencies also create potential vulnerabilities and multiple, simultaneous disruptions and failures.
An EMP event, whether natural or man-made, would cause “unprecedented cascading failures of major infrastructures,” Graham said.
The critical, life-sustaining infrastructures that depend on the vulnerable national grid include telecommunications, banking and finance, automated control systems, petroleum and natural gas, transportation, food and water delivery, emergency services and space systems.
Graham pointed out the FERC is dominated by three Obama administration appointees, although the Republican appointee slots remain empty. Despite the Trump administration coming into office in a few days, the FERC won’t realize a majority of Republicans until June 30, 2017, when the term of a Democratic appointee is scheduled to end.
“It may not be an accident that this action is being addressed on the last full day of the Obama administration rather than at a time when the Trump administration can influence the ruling,” Graham told WND.
The FERC is to finalize standards for only solar storms, or the natural-occurring slow EMP called an E3, ignoring the nuclear-weapon-generated EMP, Graham warned.
He said that the E3 component of an EMP from a high-altitude nuclear explosion can have “higher amplitudes than the (geomagnetic disturbance protection) E3, and there is also a substantially higher, intense electromagnetic fast pulse (E1) produced only by high-altitude nuclear weapons.”
“Significantly,” Graham said, “similar commercially available equipment can be used to protect against nuclear EMP and naturally occurring GMD EMP, but comprehensive nuclear EMP protection also requires protection against E1.
“The cost to comprehensively protect the entire U.S. grid from both E1 and nuclear and naturally occurring E3 would be modest if integrated with geomagnetic disturbance protection, and much of that could be recovered by utilities from their ratepayers at a very low per capita cost,” Graham said.
Graham said he has alerted the incoming Trump transition department appointees and transition-team heads to the impending FERC action.
“We expect that several duly filed requests for administrative rehearing are planned to be denied on 19 January,” Graham said. “Once FERC makes its final ruling on the regulatory standard for only GMP EMP protection, it will be both difficult and more expensive to replace with the necessary comprehensive standard that integrates the nuclear EMP protection.”
He said Trump, as president, will have the authority to appoint three new FERC commissioners between January and July 2017, giving the regulatory board a Republican majority by mid-summer.
“A rebalanced FERC could mandate integrated protection against both GMD and nuclear EMP, with substantial cost saving and major infrastructure survivability improvement that would significantly strengthen national security,” Graham said.
Graham said the FERC chairman, Norman Bay, could postpone a final decision on GMD protection to allow the Trump administration to pursue an integrated EMP-GMD protection approach.
Until the Trump administration can participate in the ruling, Graham strongly urged citizens to contact FERC Chairman Bay [telephone: (202) 502-8000], chief of staff Larry Gasteiger and the two other sitting FERC commissioners before their vote on the ruling on Jan. 19 to request that the FERC defer rehearing of “FERC Standard TPL-007-1, per FERC Order 830.”
F. Michael Maloof, is a former security policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Maloof is author of “A Nation Forsaken—EMP: The Escalating Threat of an American Catastrophe,” the ebook, “ISIS Rising: Prelude to a neo-Ottoman Caliphate.”
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