Stop, Listen, What's That Sound: Protecting Renewable Energy Infrastructure Whistleblowers
28 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2021
Date Written: December 4, 2019
Renewable energy is a growing industry in the United States, currently supplying thirty percent of the nation’s energy. Among these plants are nuclear energy reactors, hydropower dams, wind farms, and solar arrays. As climate change requires a shift away from non-renewable sources of power, renewable energy will be a necessary investment to pick up the slack. Using these sources of power will help the nation adapt to the oncoming climate change, do less harm to the environment, and increase self-sufficiency.
The current infrastructure protection system is based on risk mitigation and effectuated through information sharing. The Department of Homeland Security has prepared a National Infrastructure Protection Plan with a framework for communication among the federal, state, local, and private actors in critical infrastructure sectors. Within the sixteen sectors are three that oversee renewable energy; various councils coordinate an information sharing regime within these three sectors. Yet, the infrastructure protection plans do not address the role that private employees at the plant can play as infrastructure whistleblowers.
Current whistleblower legislation leaves a gap in this field of private industry. Multiple statutes regulate whistleblowers within the government, enact broad Congressional mandates primarily enforced through whistleblowers, or incentivize whistleblowers in critical industries to report malfeasance. The lack of whistleblower protections in critical renewable energy infrastructure is a missed opportunity for risk mitigation that could help harden an industry ripe for future target by state and nonstate actors. Whistleblower retaliation and government prosecution deter potential whistleblowers. Three changes to existing legal structures could protect whistleblowers in renewable energy infrastructure. These changes would preserve the accountability of public utilities and help risk mitigation before an emergency develops.
Keywords: Whistleblowers, Renewable Energy, Infrastructure, Critical Infrastructure, National Infrastructure Protection Plan, Espionage Act
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