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Politics OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm

05:00  09 june  2021
05:00  09 june  2021 Source:   thehill.com

Ransomware summer: Hackers are making Americans’ lives worse, at an awkward time for Biden

  Ransomware summer: Hackers are making Americans’ lives worse, at an awkward time for Biden "Opportunistic" cyberattacks targeting the gasoline and meat supplies add to the burdens of an economy trying to reopen.An ever more aggressive breed of extortionist hackers is adding to the headaches of tens of millions of ordinary Americans by targeting industries critical to daily life, including this week by forcing a shutdown of the world’s largest meat processing company’s U.S. plants. That was barely three weeks after an earlier ransomware attack choked off the country’s largest fuel pipeline, prompting gasoline shortages and a price spike that has yet to fully recede.

TODAY IS TUESDAY! Welcome to Overnight Energy, your source for the day's energy and environment news.Please send tips and comments to Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com . Follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin . Reach Zack Budryk at zbudryk@thehill.com or follow him at @BudrykZack.

Shelley Moore Capito, Joe Biden standing next to a person in a suit and tie: Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and President Biden © Greg Nash - UPI Photo Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and President Biden

Today we're looking at the end of infrastructure talks, some tense Senate hearings for the Colonial Pipeline CEO and President Biden's lands agency pick respectively and the signing of weatherization bills in Texas following this year's winter storms.

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THE ART OF NO DEAL: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican

President Biden on Tuesday cut off prolonged infrastructure negotiations with a GOP group led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and will instead move forward on discussions with a bipartisan group of senators.

The White House announced Biden's move after the president and Capito spoke Tuesday afternoon. The two remained far apart on a deal during that discussion despite weeks of talks. The White House as a result is shifting to talks with a bipartisan group that is crafting its own proposal, an administration official confirmed.

Members of the bipartisan group include Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and other Senate moderates, such as Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The senators are aiming to release a proposal by the end of the week.

Why ransomware cyberattacks are on the rise

  Why ransomware cyberattacks are on the rise A recent spate of ransomware attacks has left the nation reeling. A recent spate of ransomware attacks has crippled critical American infrastructure, disrupted major food supply chains and revealed that no firm -- big or small -- is safe from these insidious cyberattacks.

The president began speaking with members of the bipartisan coalition on Tuesday, and he will engage with those lawmakers while in Europe for the next week. Cabinet officials such as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will also take a leading role, an administration official said.

Read more about the talks here.

PIPING UP: Colonial Pipeline CEO provides new details on cyberattack

Colonial Pipeline President and CEO Joseph Blount was grilled by lawmakers Tuesday on his decision to pay hackers in a ransomware attack that forced a temporary shutdown of operations - and led to gas outages in parts of the country.

During a sometimes-tense Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Blount indicated that the company did not consult with the FBI and other agencies before it paid the equivalent of $4.4 million in bitcoin to regain control of its systems.

JBS, Colonial Pipeline ransomware attacks are just a fraction of what US is up against, DOJ official warns CEOs

  JBS, Colonial Pipeline ransomware attacks are just a fraction of what US is up against, DOJ official warns CEOs Justice Department Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco warned CEOs of "exponential increase" of ransomware attacks like Colonial Pipeline and JBS.“The message needs to be to the viewers here, to the CEOs around the country, that you’ve got to be on notice of the exponential increase of these attacks,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco told CNBC‘s Eamon Javers in her first televised appearance since joining the Justice Department in April.

"It was our understanding that the decision was solely ours as a private company to make the decision about whether to pay or not to pay," Blount said in response to a question from Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the panel's chairman.

"Considering the consequences of potentially not bringing the pipeline back on as quickly as I possibly could, I chose the option to make the ransom payment," he said.

Yes, and: Blount also testified that multifactor authentication was not used to secure the account suspected to have been exploited by hackers to gain access to company systems and that there was no plan in place to respond specifically to a ransomware attack.

"My concern is how unprepared Colonial Pipeline was," Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) told reporters following the hearing. "I have small school districts in New Hampshire that are more prepared than Colonial Pipeline appeared to be, and that's really concerning."

"When critical infrastructure is run by a private entity there need to be some rules and some frameworks to make sure that the interests of the American people are served," she added.

Majority of $4.4 million cryptocurrency ransom payment in Colonial Pipeline hack recovered

  Majority of $4.4 million cryptocurrency ransom payment in Colonial Pipeline hack recovered Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said the FBI was able to "turn the tables" on the group known as the "Darkside," believed to be based in Russia. At a Justice Department briefing, FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate said investigators were able to trace the payment to a "virtual currency wallet," and then seized more than $2 million in cryptocurrency funds.Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning. Although it is unlikely that the hackers would ever face charges in the U.S., Monaco and Abbate said the U.S.

Read more about the hearing here.

TURN UP THE HEAT: Republicans grill Biden public lands agency pick over finances, advocacy

Republicans on the Senate Energy Committee on Tuesday grilled Tracy Stone-Manning, President Biden's pick to lead the Bureau of Land Management, questioning her on partisanship and her personal finances.

While Democrats praised Stone-Manning for her record on issues of importance to the western U.S., ranking member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) expressed concerns that she "does not fit the bill" to direct the bureau.

The GOP senator pressed Stone-Manning about political ads run by the group Montana Conservation Voters last year targeting Sen. Steve Daines's (R-Mont.) conservation record. Stone-Manning served as treasurer and was on the group's board of directors at the time.

"I have led nonprofit organizations and I have been on the board of nonprofit organizations, and I take very seriously the difference between those two roles," Stone-Manning responded, adding that she had a policy of "never micromanaging staff" over the course of her nonprofit work.


Video: Biden pushes infrastructure plan in GOP stronghold (USA TODAY)

Read more about the hearing here.

EVERYTHING IS WEATHERIZED IN TEXAS? Texas governor signs bills to improve power grid after deadly winter storm

Texas governor says power grid fixed; experts cite problems

  Texas governor says power grid fixed; experts cite problems AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Despite experts who say Texas' power grid remains vulnerable, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott declared Tuesday that new reforms “fix all of the flaws” that caused February's deadly winter blackout that left more than 4 million people without power in subfreezing weather. He was joined by Republicans who defended it as a good deal for consumers, even though they gave no direct financial relief to families who were stuck with high energy bills or lost income as the lights and heat stayed off for days.Signing into law two sweeping overhauls in response to one of the largest power outages in U.S.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed two bills into law Tuesday aimed at improving the operation and oversight of the state's power grid after broad criticism over the handling of a deadly winter storm.

One of the bills Abbott signed would require the weatherization of power generation facilities, natural gas facilities and transmission facilities to be better prepared for severe weather and will also mandate that the Texas Railroad Commission and Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) inspect the facilities, with fines of up to $1 million for failure to properly weatherize them.

The new laws also establish the Texas Energy Reliability Council to boost harmonization between state agencies and industry during long power outages and bouts of extreme weather.

The laws do not include requirements regarding consumer infrastructure such as homes and pipes and do not mandate that weatherization occur until 2022.

Read more about the bill here.

GOING, GOING GOM: Biden administration eyes potential offshore wind sites in Gulf of Mexico

The Biden administration is looking to potentially open the Gulf of Mexico to offshore wind and other renewable energy development, it announced on Tuesday.

The Interior Department said it will examine potential opportunities for development at the Gulf's outer continental shelf and will allow for public comment to assess interest and gain information.

A spokesman for Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, John Filostrat, said in an email that this is the first time the agency is gauging interest for renewable energy in the Gulf.

Opinion: Ransomware is a national security risk. It's time to treat it like one

  Opinion: Ransomware is a national security risk. It's time to treat it like one Recent critical infrastructure disruptions bring into clear focus that ransomware poses a significant risk to national security, and it's time to begin treating it as we would any other serious threat. © Shutterstock Ransomware builds upon the computer viruses and worms of years' past and adds a terrifying twist. Once ransomware infects a system, it encrypts all of the data on that system, rendering it inaccessible to legitimate users. The ransomware author then demands the payment of a ransom in exchange for providing the decryption key required to restore access.

Later this week, the administration will publish a request for information for potential development off the coasts of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama.

Read more about what they're looking to do here.

ON TAP TOMORROW:

  • Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount will testify at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on cybersecurity and infrastructure
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies will hold hearings on the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Reclamation's fiscal 2022 budget requests. EPA Administrator Michael Regan is slated to appear at his agency's hearing
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on PFAS' effects on citizens and states
  • The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will hold a hearing to examine the nomination of Bryan Todd Newland to be an Assistant Secretary of the Interior

WHAT WE'RE READING:

As Biden's BLM pick awaits confirmation, its Grand Junction headquarters sit empty, Colorado Newsline reports

Pollster's private message to GOP: Win on climate, E&E News reports

Southwest utilities bet on solar, storage for resilience against wildfires, Energy News Network reports

'Energy Justice' Nominee Brings Activist Voice To Biden's Climate Plans, NPR reports

Hawaii bill seeks to gut funding aimed at protecting environment from tourism, The Guardian reports

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday (and Monday night)...

Texas governor signs bills to improve power grid after deadly winter storm

Biden administration eyes potential offshore wind sites in Gulf of Mexico

Dozens arrested during protest of oil pipeline in Minnesota

Jane Fonda: Biden hasn't done 'enough' on oil pipelines

Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack

Conservation deal puts additional hurdle in front of embattled mine proposal

Republicans grill Biden public lands agency pick over finances, advocacy

Colonial CEO apologizes for pipeline attack's impact

Energy Department announces new steps on US battery production

GAO to examine border wall environmental impacts

OFFBEAT AND OFF-BEAT: The cicadas are dangerous!!!

Ransomware is the top cybersecurity threat we face, warns cyber chief .
NCSC CEO Lindy Cameron issues warning over growing danger of cyber criminal ransomware operations and how improving cyber reliance is needed to prevent attacks.Ransomware is one of the key cybersecurity threats facing the UK and the cyber criminal groups behind them are becoming more dangerous, the UK's cyber chief is to warn.

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