Electricity Supply:

Efforts Under Way to Improve Federal Electrical Disruption Preparedness

RCED-92-125: Published: Apr 20, 1992. Publicly Released: May 21, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the federal government's plans and policies for meeting major disruptions in the supply of electricity, focusing on: (1) the Department of Energy's (DOE) inclusion of other federal, state, local, and utility organizations in preparedness planning; (2) whether federal agencies have sufficient statutory authority to respond to major electrical disruptions; and (3) emergency plans' incorporation of restoration priorities and measures to help ensure adequate electrical equipment supplies.

GAO found that: (1) the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has developed a comprehensive federal response plan with guidance for the 27 federal agencies with emergency preparedness responsibilities during major disasters or emergencies; (2) the plan establishes DOE as the lead federal agency for responding to severe energy disruptions; (3) DOE, FEMA, and state and local government agencies have conducted joint planning and emergency simulation exercises for energy emergencies; and (4) DOE also works with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to address terrorist threats to the energy supply and works with electric utility officials in preparedness planning through the National Defense Executive Reserve (NDER) Program. GAO also found that: (1) DOE and other federal agencies are generally satisfied that they have sufficient statutory authority to respond to major electrical disruptions; (2) legislative refinements could enhance agencies' preparedness and response capabilities by clarifying conflict-of-interest provisions applicable to NDER members and clarifying the circumstances under which agencies can use national security emergency authorities for peacetime emergencies; (3) DOE is leading an interagency working group in developing an electrical service priority system that would assign priorities for restoring electrical power; (4) although DOE does not maintain a database of equipment that would be critical to recovery from a major disruption, several industry groups do; and (5) DOE, working through the Department of Commerce, can arrange for utilities to obtain additional equipment required following a major disruption.

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