Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

APPA details key needs of critical infrastructure operators to respond to COVID-19

The American Public Power Association on March 17 asked the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee to consider a number of measures needed to ensure critical infrastructure operators are able to maintain service to their customers and the nation throughout the current public health emergency caused by COVID-19.

APPA made the request as the committees draft emergency supplemental legislation in response to COVID-19.

“Planning for a health emergency, such as the novel coronavirus (or COVID-19), is unique from other business continuity planning because businesses must consider operating with a significantly smaller workforce, a threatened supply chain, and limited support services for an unknown period of time,” APPA noted.

“The business continuity and pandemic plans developed by lifeline critical infrastructure entities, such as electric and natural gas utilities, are designed to protect the people working for them and ensure that the operations and infrastructure necessary for society to function are supported properly throughout an emergency.”

In order to do so, lifeline sectors -- energy, water/wastewater, transportation, and communications -- identify those functions critical to their continued operations and the people needed to fill those positions, APPA noted.

“During this time, the lifeline sectors must continue to engage and support society, including some individuals needing to be sequestered potentially for weeks at a time at facilities like control centers -- requiring provisioning, protection and housing -- who are there to help during this extended time of need to make sure essential services are reliably available.”

APPA said the committees should identify measures to support lifeline critical infrastructure entities, like electric, gas, and water utilities, to ensure essential services are maintained and front-line workers are protected. “These measures will help to guarantee that lifeline infrastructure entities that provide for the underlying needs of society can continue to provide safe and reliable service throughout an emergency,” the public power group said.

The document details the following measures under consideration:

  • Medical services and equipment prioritization
  • Safe community quarantine reentry
  • Mutual assistance
  • Liability protections
  • Regulatory relief
  • Jones Act waiver

Additional details on each of the measures are available in the document.

APPA collaborated on the document with the Edison Electric Institute, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, American Gas Association, American Public Gas Association, Nuclear Energy Institute, and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

APPA has set up a webpage that provides information and resources for its members related to COVID-19 and updates on how this affects APPA programs and events.