Powering Strong Communities

FERC asks CDC to prioritize vaccination for energy workforce

Commissioners with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Jan. 13 sent a letter to the leaders of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) asking the CDC to prioritize a subset of the energy workforce for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recently updated its vaccine allocation guidance to place the energy workforce in Phase 1c of distribution priority.

In their letter, the FERC Commissioners asked the CDC to consider prioritizing a subset of the energy workforce to a higher level (Phase 1b).

“We recognize that developing vaccine guidance is a complex, iterative task that requires the balancing of numerous equities,” the Commissioners wrote in their letter.

“We write with a narrow request: as the Advisory Committee continues to review and update its recommendations, we urge you to consider that a subset of the energy workforce be included in Phase 1b — specifically, highly trained electrical field workers, power plant operators, transmission and distribution grid operators, and personnel who procure the energy needed to balance the grid on a moment-to-moment basis,” the letter said.

“Those workers’ duties can only be performed on-site, usually in close quarters, where full adherence to social distancing guidelines is impossible. And while these utility employees can be counted as among the most critical among the American workforce, they represent a relatively small population,” the FERC commissioners wrote.

“We understand that the number is likely to be on the order of thousands of workers in each state. As such, we urge you to consider prioritizing these workers as the CDC continues revising its vaccine guidance.”

The letter was signed by FERC Chairman James Danly and Commissioners Neil Chatterjee, Richard Glick, Allison Clements and Mark Christie.

APPA supports prioritization of COVID-19 vaccine for mission essential workers

Organizations representing state and local governments should ask their members to designate energy industry mission-essential workers as high priority for voluntary access to initial inoculation against COVID-19, a group of energy industry trade associations including the American Public Power Association and unions said in a Dec. 3 letter.

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

Distribution and prioritization of access to vaccinations is a state and locally-lead process.

The American Public Power Association is urging its members to contact their respective local and state health departments to articulate the need for access to vaccinations. 

Meanwhile, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in December 2020 highlighted the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce Guidance Version 4.0. “Although this version of the guidance is unchanged from the August 2020 release, we want to reiterate our belief that it remains an important tool for COVID-19 planning, even in this new environment,” CISA said.

CISA issued the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce Guidance for COVID-19 response in collaboration with other federal agencies, State and local governments, and the private sector.

The guidance is intended to help state, local, tribal, and territorial officials and organizations protect their workers and communities and ensure the continued safe and secure operation of critical infrastructure, by identifying the universe of essential workers that may require specialized risk management strategies so that they can work safely.

It can also be used to begin planning and preparing for the allocation of scarce resources used to protect essential workers against COVID-19.