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$2 million cybersecurity energy project could be on the table for Lamar University

"This is a $2 million grant that helps Lamar University in a lot of ways to develop those programs that keep cyber safe."

BEAUMONT, Texas — Just over a year ago, the Colonial Pipeline cyber breach put fuel security on the line. It exposed the danger of cyber threats in the oil industry.

Southeast Texas is an energy and petrochemical powerhouse. Most people don't know that petroleum is tied to everything from toothpaste to lipstick.

$2 million could be on the table for Lamar University to cover the cost of a new cybersecurity energy project, and leaders say a lot is on the line.

The proposal was brought to a congressional subcommittee by House District 14 Representative Randy Weber and still has some ways to go. But if it passes, it will ensure new job growth and security in the industry.

"As we see cyber threats become more sophisticated, we need more people to respond to them who have the qualifications to do so,” said Sade Chick, director of corporate affairs at the Port of Beaumont.

That's what Lamar University's new energy cybersecurity program hopes to do.

"We believe that we can contribute very positively, and the educational side and also the research side of the project,” said Dr. Jerry Lin, Associate Research Provost at Lamar University.

Lin is spearheading this project at Lamar. He wrote Congressman Randy Weber, R-Texas, a letter asking for his support.

"This is a $2 million grant that helps Lamar University in a lot of ways to develop those programs that keep cyber safe,” Weber said.

This isn't a done deal yet. The proposal was approved by a congressional subcommittee in late June and is set to go to Congress for approval in the fall. But, Weber is optimistic.

"I kind of do expect it to pass. Keep your fingers crossed,” Weber said.

And once it does, Lamar will be ready.

"Once we secure the funding resources, most likely that in the spring of 2023, or summer of 2023, we can that directly jump into the work and to make an impact,” Lin said.

Lin said the initiative can be split into three parts:

  • Educating new workers
  • Researching advanced data and analytics technology
  • Outreaching with the community and local industry like the Port of Beaumont

“Lamar University's proposed center will not only fill a workforce gap, it will also provide the resources we need to protect key systems that support critical infrastructure," Chick said.

"It means jobs, jobs, jobs. People have to have energy," Weber said.

Weber said once this proposal goes to the Senate, he is confident he'll have the support of both Texas Senators to get it passed, hopefully without changing much or any of the conditions already in it.

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