2003-08-20 / Front Page

Power Plant Security Bill On Governor’s Desk

By John Toscano

Power Plant Security Bill On Governor’s Desk

“While not related to terrorism, the blackout made clear just how much chaos can be created by a disruAption to our power supply..”“While not related to terrorism, the blackout made clear just how much chaos can be created by a disruAption to our power supply..”

By John Toscano

A bill which would give New York state oversight of power generating and transmission facilities is on Governor George Pataki’s desk awaiting his signature, and Assemblymember Michael Gianaris, its sponsor, has asked the governor to sign it into law promptly.

The legislation, which arrived on Pataki’s desk only two hours before the onset of last Thursday’s massive power blackout, "should serve as a wake-up call for all New Yorkers," Gianaris declared.

"There is no question that security at our energy facilities is terribly lacking," Gianaris added. He had surveyed several sites in preparing the legislation. About a dozen major power plants which produce about half of the city’s total power supply are in his Astoria district.

Should the governor sign it, the Gianaris Energy Security Bill would be the first major anti-terror legislation enacted since Sept. 11, 2001. Sponsored in the senate by state Senator Frank Padavan (R–C, Bellerose) it could serve as a model for the rest of the nation.

"While not related to terrorism, the blackout made clear just how much chaos can be created by a disruption to our power supply," Gianaris (D–Astoria) pointed out. "The vulnerabilities of many of our energy facilities are great and demand enhanced security measures."

Padavan stated, "In this day and age we must do everything possible to protect our power resources. If what happened last week didn’t show the need for this bill, I don’t know what would."

The veteran GOP lawmaker said the bill was well crafted. "We negotiated extensively with the industry to make sure we didn’t give away vital information on power resources."

The legislation would require the New York state Director of Public Security to review security measures at all power generating and transmission facilities in the state. By allowing the state to mandate additional security measures at these key locations, Gianaris said, the bill "would ensure that these facilities enhance security to protect against terrorist plots as well as other disasters."

Gianaris explained that currently, state oversight of security at these facilities is extremely limited. There are no provisions giving law enforcement or anti-terrorism experts a role in protecting energy facilities, Gianaris said. Since September 11, he pointed out, there have been a number of security alerts related to critical infrastructure and on several occasions energy facilities were reported to be the targets of terrorists.

Gianaris’ relentless efforts to garner support for this security legislation is fueled by his knowledge that these facilities are not providing sufficient security to protect New Yorkers from attacks or disasters. On one occasion, he said, New York City police made a series of recommendations to strengthen security measures at a local Con Edison facility, "but Con Ed ignored almost all of the recommendations because it deemed the measures too expensive," Gianaris said.

Gianaris has been a leading voice in the Albany legislature on homeland security issues and is outspoken regarding the state’s need to form a comprehensive plan for facilities that are known terrorist targets. He has stepped up his efforts to protect facilities vulnerable to attacks. Those efforts include his introducing the Chemical Security Act of 2003, which would address similar security concerns at chemical storage facilities.

Gianaris also authored the Clean Energy Act, which provides incentives to companies that refit their plants. The law’s results also include decreased costs and better air quality.

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