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Senators want ban on Chinese Huawei tech in energy infrastructure

A Huawei location in Santa Clara, Calif., on April 19, 2018. (Yichuan Cao/Sipa USA/TNS)

A bipartisan group of senators, led by members of the Intelligence Committee, want the Trump administration to prohibit electrical equipment made by Huawei from being used in the U.S. energy infrastructure.

The call for a ban on the components from the Chinese technology giant came in a letter dated Monday to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, led by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

“Huawei has recently become the world’s largest maker of inverters — the sophisticated control systems that have allowed the rapid expansion of residential and utility scale energy production,” the senators wrote. “Both large-scale photovoltaic systems and those used by homeowners, school districts, and businesses are equally vulnerable to cyberattacks.”

Monday’s letter was particularly notable because of the signatories. Both Intelligence Chairman Richard M. Burr of North Carolina and Vice Chairman Mark Warner joined Cornyn, as did other senators including members of the Intelligence Committee on both sides of the aisle.

In addition to Cornyn, Burr and Warner, the letter was signed by Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Jim Risch of Idaho, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Susan Collins of Maine, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Mitt Romney of Utah.

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Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also joined the effort.

The letter comes after President Donald Trump delayed scheduled hikes on tariffs for Chinese goods, as part of the separate trade negotiations between the U.S. and China.

He also announced in a pair of tweets he will host Chinese President Xi Jinping at his South Florida resort to try and conclude a deal. He did not give a date or estimate for that Mar-a-Lago meeting.

U.S. fees on $200 billion in Chinese goods were set to swell from 10 percent to 25 percent on March 1 if the two sides had not yet reached a trade pact.

The senators wrote that similar action to keep Huawei out of energy infrastructure should be undertaken as has already happened with their telecommunications equipment.

“We urge you to work with all federal, state and local regulators, as well as the hundreds of independent power producers and electricity distributors nation-wide to ensure our systems are protected. We stand ready and willing to provide any assistance you need to secure our critical electricity infrastructure,” the senators wrote.

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