Senate Passes Peters Provision to Bolster Cybersecurity of Public Water Systems

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A provision authored by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to help protect our nation’s public water information technology systems has passed the Senate as part of the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, which authorizes $35 billion to invest in our nation’s crumbling water infrastructure.

Peters’ provision directs the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work in coordination with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to develop a framework to determine which public water systems across the country need federal support to reduce cybersecurity risks. The provision would help prevent cyber-attacks against public water systems, such the breach of a Florida wastewater treatment plant’s computer system last year that allowed hackers to temporarily tamper with Americans’ water supply. 

“Thousands of local water systems across the country continue to face cybersecurity risks that could compromise the safety of our drinking water. Last year’s incident in Florida shows the federal government needs to step up our efforts to help local communities better protect themselves from these potentially catastrophic attacks.” said Senator Peters. “I am proud the Senate passed my provision as a part of this critical legislation to rebuild our nation’s water infrastructure. I’ll continue my efforts to bolster cybersecurity and make sure Michiganders and all Americans have access to the clean and safe drinking water they deserve.”

The framework developed through Peters’ provision to the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act would also serve as a tool for the EPA and CISA to identify public water systems that, if degraded or rendered inoperable due to a cyber-attack, would lead to significant impacts on the health and safety of the public. The provision also directs the EPA Administrator to work with the CISA Director to develop a Technical Cybersecurity Support Plan to ensure both agencies are prioritizing their resources offer cybersecurity support to water systems across the country. This plan would establish timelines for making specific services, such as penetration testing, site vulnerability assessments, and risk assessments, available to local governments.

As Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has led efforts to bolster our nation’s cybersecurity defenses. Peters convened a hearing with senior cybersecurity officials on the SolarWinds hack and ongoing cybersecurity vulnerabilities. As a part of the American Rescue Plan Act, Peters helped secure nearly $2 billion to modernize and secure information systems critical to the federal pandemic response. He also recently introduced bipartisan legislation to provide additional resources and better coordination for serious cyber-attacks against public and private networks. Peters has also pushed bipartisan legislation to improve access to cybersecurity resources and training for small businesses and to support K-12 schools with the resources they need to bolster their cybersecurity.