Rep. Robinson Discusses Affordable Reliable Energy Sources & Power Grids at Senate Confirmation Hearing

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By Ashlyn Kelly

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WASHINGTON DC – Framingham State Representative Maria Robinson answered questions about energy sources, cybersecurity, and power grids from U.S. Senators during a Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources confirmation hearing today, February 8. 

Rep. Robinson was nominated in Sept. 2021 by President Biden to become an assistant secretary in the Office of Electricity at the U.S. Department of Energy.

After two hours of questions and testimony, a vote was not held during the meeting.

Committee Chair Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from Virginia, said he would allow Committee members to submit additional questions to the nominees until Wednesday, February 9 at 6 p.m.

Two other nominees were at the hearing this morning. Joseph DeCarolis was nominated to be an administrator of the Energy Information Administration at the U.S. Department of Energy and Laura Daniel-Davis was nominated to be an assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The Senators present at the hearing were Senators Manchin, Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Angus King Jr. (D-Maine), James Langford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.).  

In her opening statement, Rep. Robinson said “I believe in America’s ability to solve problems through technological development with smart investments and well-designed policies.”

“With new discoveries being made at rapid-fire pace across the power industry, I want to ensure that we are meeting the moment with flexible policies that can adapt to new advancements in technology,” she added.

Senator Manchin asked Rep. Robinson what her position is on advancing reliable energy sources rather than eliminating sources. 

“I believe that for the Office of Electricity, reliability is the number one concern and will be my number one concern for maintaining,” said the Robinson, who has a degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“If confirmed, I will work to strengthen the grid with additional research, development, and investment,” Rep. Robinson told the digital news outlet in an email.

Senator Cortez Masto asked Rep. Robinson to explain the cybersecurity improvements she would make “as it relates to interagency and intergovernmental collaboration and coordination, to keep our energy system secure and reliable.”

“We need to ensure that all sorts of contractors and utilities that work on the grid are implementing some basic cybersecurity hygiene, whether it is just two-factor authentication, or regular password changing, recognizing that we want to avoid as many zero-day opportunities for hackers as possible.,” said the Framingham resident.

Senator Hirono said the bipartisan infrastructure bill allocates money to “improve the resilience of the grid against cyber attacks and the extreme weather from climate change.

“How would you ensure that the funds are spent well and on time so people see the benefits of affordable reliable and clean power?” she asked.

“I’m not privy to internal deliberations over at the Department of Energy now but I know that that is a major focus of the Secretary to ensure that the department is working very closely with states, tribes, regions, and municipalities – too many of whom have long term plans they would love to see funded but haven’t had an opportunity to fund in the past.,” said Rep. Robinson.

Senator Hickenlooper asked if Rep. Robinson would be able to work closely with states as they “seen to expand – organize the wholesale electricity markets?”

Rep. Robinson, who was the Director of the Wholesale Markets Program with Advanced Energy Economy, said this was a topic she is “particularly excited to work on.

“State Technical Assistance – and in particular on the western RTO [regional transmission organization] – is an area that I worked on in a previous position,” she said. “I think we recognize that states are maybe not as well funded to do that type of analysis that needs to happen in order to make these important decisions and so I’d be excited to work with all of you in the states that are considering joining an RTO or developing a wholesale market with the Office of Electricity’s resources.”

Senator Hickenlooper replied, “I think it’s exactly as you said – most states don’t have the  – not just the experience doing this but they don’t have the computer modeling and system set up to do it as easily as what you can.”

Rep. Robinson said she “hope[s] this is the beginning of a strong partnership” between the Senate and the Office of Electricity, if she is confirmed. 

Rep. Robinson leads the Massachusetts House of Representatives Clean Energy Caucus, serves as the Massachusetts state lead to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators where she is on the board, and is the only state legislator on the U.S. EPA Clean Air Act Advisory Committee.

“It was truly an honor to be nominated by the President to serve,” she told SOURCE.

She was elected to the 6th Middlesex District state House seat 2018, to replace the late Rep. Chris Walsh. She is the first Korean-American to serve in the Massachusetts legislature.

Under the state’s redistricting plan, Rep. Robinson now resides in the 7th Middlesex District house seat, along with district’s currently elected official Jack Patrick Lewis. Rep. Robinson has said, if she is confirmed, she will resign from her 6th Middlesex District seat.

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Ashlyn Kelly is a Spring 2022 SOURCE intern. She is a is a senior communication arts major with minors in political science and journalism at Framingham State University. When she is not writing an article, you can usually find her in a theatre.

editor

email: editor@FraminghamSource.com call or text at 508-315-7176


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