Friday, April 20, 2018

House Subcommittee Marks-Up Energy Security Bills

On Wednesday the Subcommittee on Energy, of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, held a markup hearing on five energy bills. Four of the bills have been covered in this blog and those bills passed on voice votes; two of them were amended with substitute language from the original offerors. The four the bills that have been addressed in this blog:

HR 5174, Energy Emergency Leadership Act;
HR 5175, Pipeline and LNG Facility Cybersecurity Preparedness Act (amended);
HR 5239, Cyber Sense Act (amended); and
HR 5240, Enhancing Grid Security through Public-Private Partnerships Act

HR 5175 Changes

The one change made to HR 5175 in the substitute language is relatively minor. It adds a phrase to §2(1) to expand the coordination requirement by adding: “including through councils or other entities engaged in sharing, analysis, or sector coordinating”.

HR 5239 Changes

The changes to HR 5239 are mainly grammatical and would have little to do with the operation of the Cyber Sense program that is proposed by this bill. There is one potentially significant change; §2(b)(7) from the original bill was removed. That paragraph had provided a requirement for the Secretary of Energy to “establish procedures for disqualifying products that were tested and identified as cyber-secure under the Cyber Sense program but that no longer meet the qualifications to be identified cyber-secure products”. There is nothing in the revised program that would prohibit that disqualification.

Moving Forward

The bipartisan support received in the subcommittee will almost certainly be duplicated when these bills are taken up by the whole committee. The question then will be to see if the sponsors and the Committee leadership have enough influence (or are willing to expend the effort to influence) to bring these bills before the full House. I firmly expect that we will see some version of these bills reach the floor under the suspension of the rules procedure in the House. Again, that means limited debate and no floor amendments. I would not be surprised to see all five bills considered on a single day.


The removal of the language in HR 5239 providing for the establishment of a process to disqualify products that no longer meet the Cyber Sense standards brings up an interesting legal situation. As I said earlier, there is nothing in the bill that would specifically prohibit the Secretary from establishing such rules. But, having said that, a good lawyer could argue before a friendly judge that the removal of the specific authority to establish such a disqualification process from the language in the bill establishes a congressional intent that such authority can no longer be exercised by the Secretary absent specific authorization by Congress.

What this very well could end up meaning is that once a vendor becomes authorized to use the ‘Cyber Sense’ label on their product, they will no longer have to work to maintain the ‘Cyber Sense’ standards because the Secretary would not have the authority to require the vendor to remove the ‘Cyber Sense’ labeling. If the vendor flaunting of the ‘Cyber Sense’ standards becomes wide spread, the efficacy of the whole program would be called into question, destroying the process.

If this problem is to be addressed, it will almost certainly have to be done during the Energy and Commerce mark-up hearing that will probably be conducted in the next couple of weeks. After that, if the bill moves forward, it would almost certainly be under processes in both the House and Senate that would not allow for amendments to the bill from the floor.

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