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Obama calls for offshore drilling in Southeast

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday outlined a politically fraught plan for allowing oil and gas drilling offshore along parts of the Atlantic coast while imposing new restrictions on environmentally fragile waters off northern Alaska.

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Two from Fort Worth appointed by Gov. Abbott to university boards

Steve Hicks, a University of Texas System regent who has been a vocal opponent of regents who have criticized the system’s flagship campus in Austin, was reappointed to the board by Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday. 

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Fort Worth draws closer to deal with Lancaster developer

City staff are planning to introduce the developer Feb. 3 at a meeting of the City Council's Housing and Economic Development Committee.

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Museum District: Area’s evolution creating more interaction, public spaces

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Energy Transfer Partners, Regency Energy announce $18B merger

Energy Transfer Partners LP of Dallas and Regency Energy Partners LP have entered into a definitive merger agreement.

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Energy regulator: Steps underway to protect grid


MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top U.S. energy regulator said Thursday that her agency is taking steps to improve handling of classified national security information, following a report that officials improperly allowed widespread access to a document that outlined specific physical threats to America's electric grid.

Cheryl LaFleur, acting chairwoman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told the Senate Energy Committee on Thursday that employees are "wiping and scrubbing all databases" and taking other steps to protect sensitive information.

The commission also has directed a nonprofit entity that oversees electric reliability to develop physical security standards for the grid by early June.

In issuing the order, the agency recognized that most utilities already have taken steps to identify critical structures and protect them from attack, LaFleur said.

"A mandatory standard will reinforce these efforts and ensure that all owners and operators of the bulk power system take such important steps where appropriate," she said.

LaFleur's testimony came a day after a government investigator said commission employees improperly allowed widespread access to a sensitive document that outlined specific locations where the U.S. electric grid is vulnerable to physical threats.

A document created by the commission in response to an April 2013 attack on a California substation should have been kept secret as a national security matter, Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman said Wednesday. Instead the information was provided in whole or in part to federal and industry officials in unsecured settings.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that a federal analysis indicated that a coordinated terrorist strike on just nine key electric transmission substations could cause cascading power outages across the country in each of the nation's three synchronized power networks.

LaFleur denounced the newspaper report as "highly irresponsible" but did not refute its contents.

"While there may be value in a general discussion of the steps we take to keep the (power) grid safe, the publication of sensitive material about the grid crosses the line from transparency to irresponsibility and gives those who would do us harm a roadmap to achieve malicious designs," LaFleur said.

Wrongful use of sensitive information by an energy commission employee or former employee could result in penalties, including firing, LaFleur said, but added: "I have no reason to believe" the leak was a criminal matter.

The panel's chairwoman, Sen. Mary Landrieu, said it was fortunate that the 2013 attack on a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. substation near Metcalf, California, did not result in a blackout in Silicon Valley, "the horrors of which could only be imagined." Former FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff has said the attack was terrorism. The FBI has said in repeated statements it had found no indications to back that up.

Landrieu did not address the question of terrorism but said the widely reported incident "came very close to causing the shutdown of a large portion of the Western Grid."

Possible attacks on the grid must be taken seriously, "but the response must fit the size and the nature of the threat. One size does not fit all," Landrieu said.

Meanwhile, PG&E offered a $250,000 reward Thursday for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the April 16, 2013 attack. Fiber-optic lines were cut to knock out phone and emergency service in the area, and shots were fired into a substation.

"One year later, the perpetrator or perpetrators of this crime remain at large and we want to help change that," said Gregg Lemler, PG&E's vice president of electric transmission operations. The reward would be funded by shareholders. AT&T has offered its own $250,000 reward for information leading to arrests.

The sniper bullets knocked out 17 transformers powering parts of Silicon Valley and caused more than $15 million in damage.

Associated Press writer Garance Burke in San Francisco contributed to this story.

 

 

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