In an effort to bolster and better protect the nation’s utility infrastructure, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) at its annual convention last week elevated its ad hoc committee on Critical Infrastructure to permanent status.

Developed on an ad-hoc basis in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the committee will give state regulators a permanent forum to identify, study and propose new solutions to utility infrastructure security and delivery concerns, NARUC said. These assets include those facilities necessary to produce, transmit and deliver natural gas, electricity, water and telecommunications services.

“By cementing this committee’s status, we recognize the importance of studying these critical issues on an everyday basis,” said Jim Kerr, NARUC president and a member of the North Carolina Utilities Commission. “This action demonstrates that NARUC is committed to working both internally within the association and externally with our federal regulatory partners to improve the security of the nation’s utility infrastructure.”

NARUC noted that while the ad-hoc committee’s initial focus was responding to potential terrorist attacks and other emergencies, the permanent committee will take a much broader, more hands-on view of utility infrastructure.

“Our mission has evolved beyond emergency planning and responsiveness, such as terrorism and hurricanes,” said Sandra Hochstetter, the committee’s chairman and Arkansas Public Service Commission’s chairman. “This committee will be proactive in terms of identifying needed improvements to our nation’s utility infrastructure and making it more resilient, less vulnerable, and more capable of handling multiple needs and purposes. We’re going to be focused on how to enhance the reliability and inter-functionality of our various utility service delivery systems.”

In particular, the committee will:

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio staff member Thomas Pearce will serve as the staff subcommittee chair.

Formed as nonprofit organization in 1889, NARUC’s members include the governmental agencies that are engaged in the regulation of utilities and carriers in the fifty States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

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