House passes cyber bill aimed to protect energy sectors

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The House passed bipartisan legislation on Wednesday that would address the rise of cyber threats against energy infrastructure in the United States.

The Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Program Act, a bill co-sponsored by Reps. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.) and Mike Carey (R-Ohio), was part of a block of bills that passed in a 336-90 vote.

The bill would establish a grant program based at the Department of Energy to financially assist graduate students and postdoctoral researchers studying cybersecurity and energy infrastructure.

“The United States has witnessed an alarming rise in cybersecurity threats and attacks against our energy infrastructure, including in my home state of North Carolina,” Ross said in a statement.

“Our constituents rely on dependable energy sources for their lives and their livelihoods, and we cannot afford continued exposure to these types of attacks,” she added.

The bill, which was introduced in April, was inspired by recent cyber incidents, including the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack last year, which forced the company to shut down operations for nearly a week, causing gas shortages in several states and spikes in fuel prices.

The legislation follows a series of warnings issued by the White House and federal agencies urging companies, especially those in critical sectors, to shore up their cyber defenses against the rise of Russian cyberattacks amid the war in Ukraine.

If signed into law, the legislation would require the secretary of Energy to submit a report to Congress with updates on the development and implementation of the program no later than one year after its passage.

The bill is now headed to the Senate for consideration.

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