Feds: Russian Hackers Are Targeting U.S. Power Plants



Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Florida bridge collapse; new opioid lawsuits in West Virginia and South Dakota; Oregon governor fires librarian; top 50 invasive species in Western states; and a high cost for an Albany interstate.

CYBERSECURITY | It might be a good time for state and local officials, agency managers and other personnel review continuity-of-operations plans to respond to a blackout scenario. An alert jointly released Thursday by the Homeland Security Department and FBI warns that Russian hackers have been busy targeting U.S. energy-sector infrastructure. According to Politico:

It says the hackers penetrated targeted companies to a surprising degree, including copying information that could be used to gain access to the computer systems that control power plants. It's the kind of access that experts say would have given Moscow the ability to turn off the power if it wanted to.

In July, Bloomberg News reported that Russian hackers “had breached more than a dozen power plants in seven states, an aggressive campaign that has since expanded to dozens of states.” [Politico; US Cert; Bloomberg]

BRIDGE COLLAPSE | A 950-ton pedestrian bridge that was recently installed and still under construction collapsed near Florida International University in Miami-Dade County on Thursday, killing at least four people and crushing eight cars on Tamiami Trail below. It’s not what led to the catastrophic failure of the bridge span which was installed in six hours last Saturday.  [Miami Herald; Miami New Times; @MiamiDadeFire]  

OPIOID ABUSE | Nine towns and two counties in West Virginia filed separate federal lawsuits against a handful of pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors of painkillers. According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Each local government claims the pharmaceutical companies failed to comply with laws requiring them to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opiate medications.

The companies named in that lawsuit are AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation, H.D. Smith Wholesale Drug Co., and The Harvard Drug Group. [Charleston Gazette-Mail]

The state of South Dakota filed a civil lawsuit on Wednesday against three pharmaceutical companies accusing Purdue Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Endo Health Solutions of “intentional deception and misrepresentation” of their painkillers in marketing and promotional efforts, according to the complaint. [Argus Leader]

(Western Governors Association)

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT | The Western Governors Association has released its list of the Top 50 Invasive Species in the West. Included on the list are terrestrial species like feral hogs, feral cats, the emerald ash borer, salt cedar, cheatgrass and aquatic species like the Eurasian watermilfoil, quagga and zebra mussels, Asian clams and the western mosquitofish. [Western Governors Association]

WASTE MANAGEMENT | China has grown tired of contaminated recycling from the United States—the result of single-stream recycling not properly separating normal trash from the reusable material—and has instituted a policy that will cut back on such imports. In Minnesota, companies “that collect and sell recycling are starting to feel the effects of the Chinese policy, and some involved in the process say it could provide an opportunity to develop more strategies to reuse recycling at home,” MinnPost reports. The state has also been working to encourage new homegrown markets for its recycling. “I think there’s an opportunity here, from my standpoint, there is an opportunity here to develop new capacity,” according to Wayne Gjerde, recycling market development coordinator with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. [MinnPost]

CORRECTIONS | Alaska is the one of the few states that lacks a prison industries program. "We're a pretty big outlier," according to Alaska Department of Corrections Commissioner Dean Williams. But a proposal from Gov. Bill Walker would change that and restart a program that was shut down in 2010 due to mismanagement. [Anchorage Daily News]

Albany, New York

INTERSTATE HIGHWAYS | Here’s a good reminder that long-term road maintenance often comes with significant costs. In New York’s Capital Region, rebuilding a 9.4-mile stretch of Interstate 787 between Albany and Colonie as is has a nearly $900 million price tag, according to the I-787/Hudson Waterfront Corridor Study. But it will also cost an additional “$330 million to keep in a ‘state of good repair’ over the next 20 years,” the Times Union reports. Some have pushed for I-787’s removal through the downtown Albany, where the expressway cuts the riverfront off from the rest of the city. Putting I-787 in a depressed cut through downtown would be even more costly and difficult due to its alignment through a floodplain with adjacent freight rail tracks. [I-787/Hudson Waterfront Corridor Study; Times Union; Albany Business Review]

STATE LIBRARIAN | Oregon Gov. Kate Brown fired State Librarian MaryKay Dahlgreen in a move that surprised many in the library community. "The governor's office will work to recruit a highly qualified candidate that can deliver on the clear and reasonable expectations for the State Library and the various educational programs it oversees," according to a spokeswoman for the governor. [The Oregonian / OregonLive.com]

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

NEXT STORY: Local Officials to FCC: We’re Not the Ones Impeding 5G