The inspector general of the U.S. Energy Department has issued an audit finding weaknesses in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's dam oversight program that it says could leave privately owned dams open to terrorist attack.
The audit, released Dec. 21, said weaknesses in the FERC program relate to dam security inspection, analysis, and review activities. Inspector General Gregory Friedman said the weaknesses adversely affect FERC's ability to oversee security of dams under its jurisdiction.
�The destruction from an attack on a hydroelectric dam could be significant considering the Department of Homeland Security's conclusion that a dam has the potential to be used as a weapon of mass destruction,� the report said.
The report said FERC had not:
o Captured, or tracked to resolution, needed dam security improvements;
o Ensured that its reviews of the adequacy of dam vulnerability and security assessments were documented and subjected to management or quality assurance review; and
o Adequately documented its performance of security inspections.
Inspector: FERC activities inadequately documented
In many cases, the inspector general complained that security related activities were taking place but documentation was insufficient to demonstrate that FERC's work had been subjected to management or quality assurance reviews.
�Absent essential program improvements, FERC cannot ensure that dam owners are implementing measures to reduce the vulnerability of intentional or malicious damage to these facilities, and, in so doing, reduce the risk of loss of life and property and/or potential energy supply disruption,� the report said.
The inspector general did find that FERC's Dam Safety Program �was relatively robust,� despite some processing delays.
FERC officials responded that efforts were under way to improve the commission's ability to document results of its security regulation activities. FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher highlighted a particular problem in dealing with documents involving privately owned dams.
�Based on our understanding, sensitive but unclassified documents cannot be absolutely protected, thus leading to increased security risks at our jurisdictional projects if the FERC were to require their submission,� Kelliher wrote. �In coordination with the other federal agencies, we will continue to investigate whether unclassified but sensitive material can be protected from disclosure under current FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) regulations.�