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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, Hurricane Sandy had a devastating effect on the electric and transportation infrastructure in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. When Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast, it flooded electrical substations and knocked down trees onto power lines, shutting off power for 8.2 million customers, and causing billions of dollars in damage.

The storm sent floodwater gushing into New York's five boroughs, flooding tunnels and the subway system and making the equipment inoperable. In many hard-hit areas wireless networks suffered widespread outages primarily due to lack of power.

We have seen this scenario play out before. Just this past summer, a derecho thunderstorm knocked out power for more than 1 million residents near Washington for several days.

Do such storms have to result in such widespread outages and does the restoration of a power grid have to take so long? Several experts have said that America's power infrastructure could be more resilient--even when tested by a once-in-a-century storm.

The intent of section 52005 of the supplemental Appropriations bill is to encourage recipients of these disaster assistance funds to rebuild the electrical infrastructure so that it is more resilient to future storms. We can achieve a more resilient electric grid by maximizing the utilization of technologies that can mitigate future power outages and by ensuring the continued operation of facilities critical to first responders, communications, health care, transportation, financial systems, homeland security, emergency food and shelter, government offices, as well as other vital services such as hospitals and wastewater treatment systems.

Rebuilding these essential infrastructure systems with technology that is equipped to deal with extreme weather will better enable the electric grid to withstand potential damage and continue to deliver these vital services and maintain electric power to facilities critical to public health, safety and welfare.

There are numerous proven technologies that are ready to be deployed to enhance our electric infrastructure resiliency including smart grid technologies to isolate problems and repair them remotely, such as smart meters, high-tech sensors, grid monitoring and control systems, and remote reconfiguration and redundancy systems; microgrids, energy storage, distributed and back-up generation to power critical facilities and operations; wiring, cabling, submersible and other distribution components and enclosures to prevent outages; and electronically controlled re-closers and similar technologies for power restoration.

When we look at the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, and the suffering by millions of people who could not get electricity or communicate by phone or the internet, it makes smart sense to rebuild the electric grid so that it is more resilient and better able to withstand whatever nature may next throw at it.


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