Wylie Pilot Study: Marking Time!162280

by Henry F. Cooper 

“We have known about the existential threat posed by electromagnetic pulses (EMP) and geomagnetic disturbances (GMD) for decades. Because most people are either unaware of the danger, or view these as very low probability events, there has not been sufficient public pressure to take effective action to mitigate these threats. Instead, we establish commissions and study panels, conduct research, and develop plans to develop strategies. It is way past time to stop admiring this problem, and actually begin to do something concrete to protect our vulnerable electrical grid, control systems, and the ever-increasing array of electronic devices our society has become dependent upon.” ~ Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), February 17, 2019

Senator Johnson closed his “Round Table” Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing 18-months ago with this statement of frustration with the government’s slow progress in recognizing and countering the existential EMP threat. As Chairman, he still should be very concerned about these continuing lethargic and dysfunctional Executive Branch efforts.

I have been greatly encouraged by his continuing efforts since then, including his successful amendment to the  National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 — the NDAA(2020) that strengthened President Trump’s March 26, 2019 Executive Order 13865 which is supposed to guide the Executive Branch in addressing the existential threat posed by natural and manmade electromagnetic pulse (EMP) effects on the nation’s electric power grid.

Regrettably, the Executive Branch still is lethargically and incompetently responding to those important directives from President Trump and congress. Click here and here for my discussion of two specific recent examples of this stumbling, bumbling, fumbling Executive Branch response that is yet another example of what Senator Johnson described as “admiring” this existing threat rather than beginning “concrete” efforts “to protect our vulnerable electrical grid, control systems, and the ever-increasing array of electronic devices our society has become dependent upon.”  

  • My July 14, 2020 message referred to a 13-page report signed out by the President’s Science Advisor and Director of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), alleging to be a “whole of government” response to President Trump’s May 1, 2020 Executive Order 18920 (EO 18920). Incredibly it in effect claimed we needed more studies — befitting Senator Johnson’s description of “admiring the problem.”   
  • My September 9, 2020 message referred to an anemic 4-page August 17, 2020 report — the six-month late response to the March 26, 2019 Executive Order 13865 (EO-13865) , which, in the context of Iran’s recent explicit threat to employ EMP in attacking the U.S. electric power grid, again illustrated that the Executive bureaucracy still is dawdling…”admiring the problem,”  just as Senator Johnson said.   

We need Senator Johnson to recover from his untimely COVED-19 attack to continue to lead on this effort, with the urgency he indicated in his February 17, 2019 hearing in which he emphasized his great concern about Washington’s lethargy, as quoted above.

Click here for a video of that hearing, still well worth a couple of hours of your time, and here for Dr. George Baker’s prepared testimony, which in my view was the most representative presentation of the then and still current situation — and Dr. Baker’s recommendations to which Senator Johnson explicitly asked all hearing participants to respond.

Dr. Baker also conducted a detailed vulnerability assessment of, and provided and independent cost estimate for hardening, the Distribution Grid in York County, South Carolina, as a major portion of our Lake Wylie Pilot Study.

I have discussed these Rock Hill/York County efforts for several years. Click here for my October 29, 2019 message and its links to numerous related background messages and articles. It also highlighted Senator Johnson’s important role in overseeing Executive Branch lethargic efforts to assess the vulnerability of the nation’s electric power grid and efforts to protect all Americans against associated threats.

As the Congressional EMP Commission emphasized for years, the existential EMP threat is included in the military doctrine of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran — and potentially is posed by terrorists that could get their hands on nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them. Alternately, the grid can also be threatened by physical and cyber attacks; indeed, probably would be as precursors to a primary EMP attack. 

For my part, I have been working for several years with Duke Energy, one of the largest U.S. electric power companies, and the leaders and engineers of the Rock Hill Municipal and York County co-op companies, to conduct the Lake Wylie Pilot Study. Dr. Baker’s resulting detailed assessment of the Rock Hill/York County Distribution Grid has demonstrated that the cost for protecting against the EMP threat to the same threat as we protect our most important military systems  is quite affordable, as discussed below. 

But first, I again want to emphasize that we are pursuing the wisest approach to protecting the Distribution Grid and avoiding the dysfunctional Federal Government by pursuing a “bottom-up” approach rather than waiting on top-down directives from Washington.  Such local and state initiatives can initiate efforts to address the problems best known to those who manage the nation’s electric power grid day-to-day. 

Click here for my May 4, 2017 testimony before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee that provides my early, but still current, views on this important matter. I’ve long discussed the slow pace of federal and state “top-down” efforts to counter the existential threats to the electric power grid — particularly from manmade and natural EMP threats, and my testimony a couple of years ago emphasized:

  • How to protect the grid was learned by the Department of Defense (DoD) decades ago, and no technical reason prevents using that knowledge to protect the grid;
  • Ignorance, resulting from over-classification of that information and other political constraints, has frustrated governmental and private efforts to apply these known solutions to protect the grid;
  • A “bottom-up” approach in York County, South Carolina can provide a very affordable precedent that can be exploited by other counties in South and North Carolina and throughout the United States.

Based on the very competent assessment, we concluded it would cost each citizen of York County less than $100 to protect the county’s Distribution Grid that provides electricity to its hospital, water-wastewater management and delivery, other utilities, businesses, people, industry, transportation, emergency management, essential communications, etc. Imagine life without electricity. Additional funds would be required to assure the York County Distribution Grids is maintained, but that additional maintenance costs should be minimal. 

These quite affordable methods and procedures would be the same as those employed for decades to assess and protect our most important military systems — our strategic nuclear forces and their supporting essential command, control and communications systems.  Such a “defense conservative” effort is well-founded — moreover, there are “turn-key contractors” who can implement these recommended procedures.

Leaders of the Rock Hill Municipal Utility and York County Co-operative companies opened their infrastructure for, and were most cooperative in, allowing a vulnerability assessment and recommended hardening to assure the viability of the most important critical civil infrastructure of Rock Hill/York County.  The Distribution Grid provides all electricity to the citizens and to support the most important functions they need to sustain their ability to survive and prosper, as illustrated below.


In York County, the Rock Hill Municipal Utility and York County Co-op companies own and operate almost all of the York County Distribution Grid (illustrated in green above); and Duke Energy — one of the nation’s largest energy companies —  provides electricity from its Bulk Power grid of power plants and transmission lines as illustrated in red and blue above. 

Duke engineers have partnered with us from the beginning of the Lake Wylie Pilot Study — indeed they were actively involved in selecting Lake Wylie as a focus of our joint efforts.  Duke owns and operates three power plants on Lake Wylie, the Wylie Hydroelectric Power Plant and the Catawba Nuclear Power Plant in York County, SC and the Allen Coal Power Plant in Gaston County, NC.  We decided to focus on York County initially and then turn later to Gaston County and Mecklenburg County — home of Charlotte and Duke’s Corporate Headquarters.

Notably, when we began our Lake Wylie Pilot Study, the engineers of Duke Energy, Rock Hill Municipal Utility and York County Co-op companies were not cooperating to assure all York County citizens would receive electricity. Correcting that disconnect was one of the first products of the Lake Wyllie Pilot Study; so, key elements of the Rock Hill/York County Distribution Grid are now included in the loading conditions against which Duke’s Bulk Power Grid must work in case of a major blackout — and that is essential to provide electricity to York County citizens.

Dr. George Baker worked with us from the outset five years ago when we first charted the course for the Lake Wylie Pilot Study.  He has spent most of his professional career working on EMP issues, including in overseeing development of the Military Standards for protecting our most important military systems and their supporting infrastructure.  And he has led and overseen the assessment of these systems, that have been conducted for decades.  These military standards are “defense conservative” to build in a “safety factor” in protecting our most important military systems.  We should follow the same sense of priority in protecting our most important critical civil infrastructure. 

Shown below is Dr. Baker’s sense of the nature of the EMP threat to various components of essentially any electric system, as he briefed it to senior officials in Rock Hill on March 19, 2019.  E1 is the very high-frequency component of the EMP from a high-altitude nuclear explosion — it arrives and is gone in nanoseconds and is especially threatening to systems dependent on modern electronics.  Vulnerability of the bottom items depends on how various critical components are connected.  For example, your cell phone is probably safe if it is not plugged in for charging — if it is that connection is an antenna that will likely render it vulnerable to the E1 threat. This threat is very worrisome, and generally has not been dealt with throughout the grid. E3 is the very low frequency portion of the EMP pulse — which is similar to the Geomagnetic Disturbance created by a Coronal Mass Emission. If the grid is protected from high altitude EMP from a nuclear explosion, then it will be protected from a Geomagnetic Disturbance — but the convers is not the case.


 Dr. Baker considered top priority civil infrastructure dependent on electricity from the York County Distribution grid. I agree with him that assuring the viability of water-wastewater infrastructure is next in importance to assuring the viability of infrastructure providing electricity itself. Without water in hospitals, people will begin dying in hours. And while diesel generators provide limited electricity in most cases, they and their fuel depend on electricity being available. Other key system in York County included the communication systems needed to support emergency management — including important communications with emergency management officials in the State Capitol in Columbia. Below is Dr. Baker’s summary cost-estimates totaling about $22 million as briefed to senior Washington officials on March 19, 2019.


This bottom-line estimate in employing the same hardening methods used to protect our most important military systems to protect York County’s critical Distribution Grid infrastructure was less than $100 per citizen of York County. This one-time investment, which is less than what a family pays monthly for its health insurance, would support the most important civil activities of York County — e.g., its hospital and top priority support such as water-wastewater, emergency management, communications to state and national authorities, etc. 

  • In considering the way forward, we seek funds to validate this cost estimate by actually hardening the Rock Hill/York County Distribution Grid to the same standards as we have applied for decades to protect our most important military systems.
  • If proven, that should end the arguments about it being to expensive to protect the grid that are used to spend a lot of money in more studies to figure our how to reduce those “excessive” costs.
  • Protecting the electric power grid is clearly affordable — things standing in the way are political and bureaucratic. (More for a future message.)

For this assessment to assure the citizens of Rock Hill/York County receive electricity, the Distribution Grid must receive electricity from Transmission Lines owned and operated by Duke Energy — and Duke engineers have been engaged and partnered with the Lake Wylie Pilot Study since its beginning — and they are very serious about addressing the EMP threat.

To illustrate Duke Energy’s interest — and the difficulties of getting needed support from the Federal establishment, note that over two years ago Duke Energy gave a large transformer worth over $1.25 million to Clemson University and the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) for testing. 

Clemson and SRNL paid to have it moved by heavy truck and rail to the Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI) in North Charleston — where it has sat idle (and deteriorating) for two years, while SRNL waited hopefully for a million dollars from the Department of Energy (DOE) to ship it up the Savannah River to a SRNL site and prepare it for testing. (Moving it by highway is not practical.)   I understand that SRNL has provided some funds to keep this important transformer viable until, hopefully, the Energy Department provides funds to ship it up the Savannah River to the SRNL site for testing.    


As noted above, the Distribution Grid provides electricity to America’s citizens, businesses, hospitals, water-wastewater, factories, communications, etc. — and constitutes about 90-percent of the nation’s electric grid. And the Distribution Grid is not included in many Federal Government considerations — including regulatory considerations that are focused on the Bulk Power Grid — the Power Generation Plants and Transmission lines that provide electricity to the Distribution Grid.  Without these transformers, which are not produced in the United States, grid operations will come to a halt. 

This reality illustrates at least my frustration with the federal government, also often expressed by Senator Ron Johnson, and notably Rep. Ralph Norman, who represents the citizens of Rock Hill, York County and several other counties. 

Other SC Representatives are also concerned about the EMP threat — including Rep. Jeff Duncan who represents Oconee and Anderson Counties, where Duke Energy engineers and I hope to work to export the Rock Hill/York County lessons-learned to that important area, which includes the 263rd Army Air and  Missile Defense Command, commanded by an Army National Guard Major General who reports directly to the commanders of Army North on Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas; First Air Force on Tyndall AFB in Panama City, Florida; and Northern Command in Colorado Springs.  South Carolina’s Adjutant General is on-board with this approach to exporting the Rock Hill/York County lessons-learned to protect the national grid.

It shouldn’t take a genius among  the “powers that be” to notice how these connections might be linked with important on-going Joint Base San Antonio efforts to demonstrate how a national effort might proceed via  the Nation’s National Guard to energize and integrate an effort to protect the National Grid. 

In South Carolina, we have a microcosm of the national electric power grid in that there are three main “Bulk Power Grid” sources of electricity — Duke Energy, Dominion Energy and Santee-Cooper companies — and about 40 Municipal Utility and Electric Cooperative (Co-op) companies that, in addition to Duke Energy, Dominion Energy and Santee-Cooper, manage much of the SC Distribution Grid. Lessons-learned in effectively integrating these complexities from the Lake Wylie Pilot Study are of broad interest across South Carolina, and ultimately throughout the nation — as we collectively seek to protect the national grid against the full spectrum of threats, particularly existential natural and man-made electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threats.

Getting on with implementing that game plan should be a “no-brainer” for the “powers that be” — if only the “powers that be” can figure out how to provide the needed funds. A challenge for our elected leaders. Click here for a “hand-out,” providing an April 11, 2020 summary of my proposed approach and its consistency with existing legislation.

I expect there would be continued cooperation of the managers and engineers of Rock Hill Municipal Utility, York Electric Co-op and Duke Energy, to complete a meaningful “bottom-up” program to assure the viability of the three Duke Energy power plants on Lake Wylie — and of course associated key Transmission and Distribution infrastructure connecting those power plants and others to their customers.

If only Washington would join forces with these local and state efforts and back them with needed funds.  Stay tuned, while we “mark time” and they “admire the problem.”

Bottom Lines.

Dr. Baker’s March 19, 2019 conclusions included that:

  • A major impediment to national infrastructure EMP protection has been cost uncertainties. The Lake Wylie Pilot Study is the first comprehensive study to quantify costs. That effort would not have been possible without approval and assistance from local and state public officials and system engineers.
  • We have applied the DoD’s low risk approach hardening approach embodied in the Military Standard (MIL-STD-188-125) developed long ago and applied to protect our most important military systems — in an approach that is scalable and portable to other locals.
  • Based on costs of prior EMP protection projects, hardening of minimum essential infrasgtructuers in Rock Hill and York County would cost $22 million. Turn-key contractors exist to implement this EMP protection on complete facilities.

We seek $30 million to validate Dr. Baker’s cost estimates by actually hardening the Rock Hill/York County Distribution Grid; and also to provide sufficient additional funds to make specific plans to develop an executable follow-on plan  to take the lessons-learned throughout SC and NC and throughout the nation — along with validated cost estimates for executing a national program — beginning with links to the Joint Base San Antonio initiative.

A key leading role should be played by the National Guard, and particularly its Civil Support Teams in every state. South Carolina’s Adjutant General is supportive of this approach, which fits with missions of the SC National Guard that are already integrated within the key activities throughout the Nation, as led by the NORTHCOM Commander.   Consequently, primary funding should be authorized and appropriated via DoD missions, via the existing authorities of Chief of the National Guard.

This approach would quit “marking time” and be responsive to Senator Ron Johnson’s challenge that:

“It is way past time to stop admiring this problem, and actually begin to do something concrete to protect our vulnerable electrical grid, control systems, and the ever-increasing array of electronic devices our society has become dependent upon.”

What can you do?

Join us in praying for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.

Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all “powers that be” to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.

Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage www.highfrontier.org, for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.

Encourage them to review our past email messages, posted on www.highfrontier.org, to learn about many details related to the existential man-made and natural EMP threats and how we can protect America against them. I hope you will help us with our urgently needed efforts, which I will be discussing in future messages.

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