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FERC, NARUC Want Utility Workers Designated as ‘Essential’

By District Energy posted 04-01-2020 21:24


Power Magazine


Two agencies aligned with the power generation industry, including the group representing state public service commissioners who regulate utility services, including energy, telecommunications, and water, are asking state regulators to designate utility company workers as essential to the nation’s critical infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) on March 26 said they would partner in their response efforts to the coronavirus outbreak, working together to ensure the reliability of U.S. electricity transmission and distribution systems.

The groups issued a joint statement Thursday, one week after the U.S. Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a memorandum that listed what that group considers the essential workforce during the pandemic. The list included health care workers and law enforcement, along with some government workers and public safety officials.

“Every aspect of responding to the pandemic—be it hospitals, public safety or workforce continuity of operations —all depend on reliable utility systems,” said NARUC President Brandon Presley. “The need is present 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the utility personnel responsible for ensuring the safety and functionality of our critical infrastructure should be included in any discussion or designation of essential workers.”

The International District Energy Association on March 25 sent a letter to the CISA asking that the “District Energy Systems Workforce” be added to the list of essential workers.

“Our Commission has not had to address the absurd notion that utility workers aren’t essential,” said Tim Echols, vice-chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission, in an email to POWER. “Shut the power down, and with it all the Netflix powering-modems for just 48 hours, and before that food in the fridge ruins any reluctant officials would designate utility workers as superheroes.”

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