WASHINGTON DC (March 12, 2020) — Prepared floor remarks by Senator Charles "Chuck" Grassley:
Last week, I introduced an amendment to the American Energy Innovation Act.
This amendment addresses a critical shortcoming with the whistleblower protections currently available to the power-sector employees responsible for maintaining and securing our nation’s electric grid.
For those who are unfamiliar, the electric grid is managed by a patchwork of public and private entities.
Unfortunately, that means patchy coverage for energy-sector employees under our current whistleblower-protection laws.
Federal workers are covered under the Whistleblower Protection Act, but others have to rely on state and local laws for protection.
That is, if those protections exist at all.
For many on the front lines, they don’t exist.
Just last year, according to news reports, power-company employees raised concerns about equipment introduced to improve efficiency that they believed posed a threat of starting wildfires.
One of the employees who raised concerns was reportedly fired after doing so.
If it turns out that the employee was fired for blowing the whistle in the interest of public safety, that’s unacceptable.
As a country, we should be encouraging whistleblowers who know of threats to the security of our electric grid to come forward and to report what they know.
We owe it to them to ensure that when they do, they’ll be protected.
That’s common sense.
And that’s exactly what my amendment does.
My amendment makes it clear that power-sector employees who report threats to our electric grid are protected from retaliation.
And if they’re fired, they can file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor.
In that regard, this amendment brings whistleblower protections for energy-sector employees in line with more than a dozen other whistleblower laws established by Congress in recent years.
Next week is sunshine week, a time when we celebrate the importance of transparency and accountability in government.
When we think about securing our electric grid, sunlight and transparency certainly bring accountability, but they also bring attention to potential risks to our public safety, and to our national security.
They can potentially save lives.
That’s something I’m certain we can all get behind.
I want to thank Senator [Ed] Markey for co-sponsoring the amendment and for his support.
I strongly encourage all of my colleagues to support it, as well.