From Federal officials, lawmakers and industry leaders have reached consensus that any forthcoming cybersecurity legislation should grant the Energy Department authority to order utilities to take action when there is an emergency threat to critical elements of the electricity grid.

On April 15, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) — ranking member and chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, respectively — released a 12-page bipartisan draft of legislation aimed at protecting bulk power systems and electric infrastructure from cyberattacks.

The panel's emergency proposal covers so-called critical electrical infrastructure, or systems that generate and distribute electricity for interstate commerce, which if impaired would harm national security.

Some industry groups said, however, the provision needs to be more precise in defining a crisis situation.