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NOVEMBER 3, 2019



"PG&E Blackouts and the National Power Grid"


Today's guests: Dr Peter Pry  
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both Congressional Advisory Boards, and served on the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of Apocalypse Unknown: The Struggle To Protect America From An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe and Electric Armageddon, both available from and

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry served as Chief of Staff to the Congressional Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Commission. He is the Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, a Congressional Advisory Board dedicated to achieving protection of the United States from electromagnetic pulse (EMP), Cyber Warfare, mass destruction terrorism and other threats to civilian critical infrastructures, on an accelerated basis.  Dr. Pry also is Director of the United States Nuclear Strategy Forum, an advisory board to Congress on policies to counter Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Foreign governments, including the United Kingdom, Israel, Canada, and Kazakhstan consult with Dr. Pry on EMP, Cyber, and other strategic threats.    

Dr. Pry served on the staffs of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States (2008-2009); the Commission on the New Strategic Posture of the United States (2006-2008); and the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack (2001-2008). 

Dr. Pry served as Professional Staff on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) of the U.S. Congress, with portfolios in nuclear strategy, WMD, Russia, China, NATO, the Middle East, Intelligence, and Terrorism (1995-2001).  While serving on the HASC, Dr. Pry was chief advisor to the Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and the Vice Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and to the Chairman of the Terrorism Panel. Dr. Pry played a key role: running  hearings in Congress that warned terrorists and rogue states could pose EMP and Cyber threats,  establishing the Congressional EMP Commission, helping the Commission develop plans to protect the United States from EMP and Cyber Warfare, and working closely with senior scientists and the nation's top experts on critical infrastructures, EMP and Cyber Warfare.   

Dr. Pry was an Intelligence Officer with the Central Intelligence Agency responsible for analyzing Soviet and Russian nuclear strategy, operational plans, military doctrine, threat  perceptions, and developing U.S. paradigms for strategic warning (1985-1995).  He also served as a Verification Analyst at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency responsible for assessing Soviet arms control treaty compliance (1984-1985). 

Dr. Pry has written numerous books on national security issues, including Blackout WarsApocalypse Unknown: The Struggle To Protect America From An Electromagnetic Pulse CatastropheElectric Armageddon: Civil-Military Preparedness For An Electromagnetic Pulse CatastropheWar Scare: Russia and America on the Nuclear Brink Nuclear Wars: Exchanges and Outcomes;  The Strategic Nuclear Balance: And Why It Matters; and Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal.  Dr. Pry often appears on TV and radio as an expert on national security issues.  The BBC made his book War Scare into a two-hour TV documentary Soviet War Scare 1983 and his book Electric Armageddon was the basis for another TV documentary Electronic Armageddon made by the National Geographic.

California Wildfires: Object Lesson for National Grid Security

California’s rolling blackouts affecting millions, contributing to chaos caused by deadly wildfires consuming entire forests and neighborhoods, is an object lesson that the nation’s electric utilities cannot be trusted to protect the American people from EMP (including severe solar storms) or cyber warfare.

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), California’s chief electric utility, failed to make basic commonsense upgrades to infrastructure, like replacing aged power line towers that could collapse and cause fires.  PG&E failed to undertake obvious commonsense “vegetation management” (in industry parlance) safety precautions, like removing trees that could down power lines and start fires.

PG&E is now deliberately engineering rolling blackouts as a “strategy” to reduce likelihood that power lines downed by high winds will cause more fires, seeking to contain the wildfire crisis currently consuming California.

Consequently, millions of Californians are enduring periodic rolling blackouts, sometimes lasting days—inflicted on purpose by PG&E—while over 25 million are in “red flag” areas endangered by wildfires.

PG&E’s deliberately engineered rolling blackouts impede first responders, and civilians trying to survive or escape, by stopping running water, degrading communications and fuel availability for vehicles, and causing other significant problems.


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California Governor Gavin Newsom condemns PG&E for “greed and neglect.”  People “can’t even access water or medical supplies.”

But Newsom compelled PG&E to invest billions in “green energy” to combat climate change—short-changing public safety.  Nor has Newsom’s California Public Utilities Commission required PG&E to protect the grid.

A San Jose Mercury News editorial rightly protests: “Northern California is not a third world country.  It’s unacceptable that the region is being forced to endure this level of disruption as the long-term strategy for dealing with the threat of wildfires.”

PG&E has barricaded its San Francisco headquarters against angry customers.

PG&E deserves condemnation, not only for the present crisis, but for a long history of neglecting basic public safety.

Six years ago, a 2013 report to the California Public Utilities Commission warned: “Several aspects of the PG&E distribution system present significant safety issues.” 

In 2015, PG&E powerlines caused a fire in Butte that killed two.

In 2017, a PG&E powerline tower built in the 1920s, long past safe service life, collapsed causing a wildfire that destroyed 5,000 homes in Santa Rosa and killed two dozen.

In 2018, PG&E powerlines started a huge wildfire that consumed the town of Paradise and killed 85.

PG&E’s response to its worsening record of public safety?  Instead of stopping mismanagement and launching a crash program to fix grid infrastructure, PG&E filed for bankruptcy to escape liability for billions of dollars in damages inflicted on Californians.

If PG&E, one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, cannot be trusted competently to perform such basic and simple public safety precautions as vegetation management and powerline protection, clearly they are incompetent to protect the grid from more complex and much bigger threats that could kill millions—like EMP and cyber warfare. 

The history of PG&E neglect of public safety and the current crisis in California happened despite PG&E being regulated by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the latter basically an industry lobby funded by utilities.

The EMP Commission Chairman’s Report (2017) warns: “The current largely self-regulatory structure of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), and the electric power industry was not designed to address U.S. survival under nuclear EMP or other hostile attack.  The Commission assesses that the existing regulatory framework for safeguarding the security and reliability of the electric power grid, which is based upon a partnership between the U.S. FERC and the private NERC representing the utilities, is not able to protect the U.S. from hostile attack.”   

Unwisely, the strategy concocted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to protect electric grids and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures from the existential threats posed by EMP and cyber warfare relies on “public-private partnerships” where the U.S. Government is the junior partner, essentially trusting the expertise and competence of the utilities.

The EMP Commission Chairman’s Report warns against this “doomed to fail“ strategy: “Regulatory inadequacy over the electric power industry for national security is demonstrated, not only in the failure of industry to protect the grid, but in lobbying by NERC, EPRI, EEI and other industry groups to oppose initiatives by federal and state officials and private citizens to protect the grid from EMP...” 

Electric utilities and their lobbies—NERC, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and Edison Electric Institute (EEI)—lack expertise on EMP and cyber warfare and are not competent to protect the national grid from either threat.

Frighteningly, as wildfires and rolling blackouts roil California, DHS and DOE are out-sourcing  national security to the electric power industry, trusting the likes of PG&E, NERC, and EPRI to safeguard electric grids and the American people from a natural (solar) or manmade EMP catastrophe.

President Trump’s excellent “Executive Order on Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses” (March 26, 2019) deserves better from DOE and DHS.  They should rely on EMP Commission threat assessments and recommendations.  


Dr. Pry has excellent articles on NewMax!! Click below:  
Dr. William R. Graham served as Chairman of the Congressional EMP Commission, President Reagan’s Science Advisor, ran NASA, and on the defense science team that discovered the EMP phenomenon and developed protective measures.  Ambassador R. James Woolsey was Director of Central Intelligence.  Dr. Peter Vincent Pry served as chief of staff of the EMP Commission and on the staffs of the Strategic Posture Commission, House Armed Services Committee, and CIA.