The production facilities, transportation networks and distribution infrastructure that comprise the nation’s energy sector represent both a key economic asset and a significant national vulnerability. The U.S. economy and the lifestyles of all Americans depend heavily on the availability of a strong, resilient and responsive energy infrastructure. The nation’s diffuse energy infrastructure—with many pipelines and transmission lines running through sparsely populated areas and electricity substations also sited in remote areas—makes the industry susceptible to a variety of hazards including technological failures, severe weather and sabotage. While attacks on pipelines and efforts to bring down towers supporting transmission lines occur with some regularity, recent history has shown that the more common culprits in energy-related emergencies are natural disasters and technical failures.
As the heads of state, governors are ultimately responsible for preparing for and responding to energy emergencies in their states. Their ability to ensure the security and resilience of the energy sector, which is largely privately owned, is limited by a lack of regulatory and statutory authority. Nonetheless, there are a number of steps governors can take to ensure their states are well-positioned to respond to electrical blackouts, oil and gas shortages and other energy-related crises.