Energy expert: Lesson to be learned from San Jose power substation attack

UC Davis energy policy expert Amy Jaffe said communities should learn a lesson from an attack at a San Jose PG&E substation and have back-up plans in case of an attack.

In April 2013, the attack at the substation took out 17 transformers supplying power to Silicon Valley. Surveillance video shows the sparks from a high-powered rifle firing at the PG&E substation near San Jose. An intruder, or intruders, made their way through manholes to cut fiber cables, then fired more than 100 rounds at the transformers. The attack continued for nearly 20 minutes.

PG&E officials said they were able to prevent major power outages in April 2013 by rerouting electricity to compensate for the damaged transformers. Jaffe hopes communities across the country will follow California's lead and implement/improve back-up systems for their power grids.

"So that if we do wind up being subject to an attack on substations or some other kind of critical infrastructure that we can bounce back faster,"Jaffe said.

Jaffe said an attack that targets a community's electric grid could be deadly if it affected hospitals and traffic systems.

"Losing the electricity to a major nuclear plant or power station can have just horrific consequences," Jaffe said.

Jon Wellinghoff, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when the attack happened, recently told the Wall Street Journal he believed it was an act of domestic terrorism. He claims the attack was a rehearsal for a bigger terror plot that could potentially take down the U.S. power grid and black out much of the country.

RELATED STORY: Ex-energy official calls substation attack 'terrorism'

A FBI spokesperson said the agency does not believe a terrorist group is responsible for the attack because no one has claimed credit, which would be common in a terrorist attack. The FBI continues to investigate the attack.


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