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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Threat to the grid? Details emerge of sniper attack on power station CA.

    Threat to the grid? Details emerge of sniper attack on power station

    Published February 05, 2014 FoxNews.com

    FILE: August 14, 2012: A view of the U.S. power grid from inside of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas's command center in Taylor, Texas.REUTERS


    Newly reported details about a 52-minute sniper attack on a central California electrical substation last year are raising concerns from Capitol Hill and beyond, amid questions over whether it was the work of terrorists.

    The April 16, 2013, attack had not been widely publicized until The Wall Street Journal reported new details in a story on Wednesday. The attack reportedly started when at least one person entered an underground vault to cut telephone cables, and attackers fired more than 100 shots into Pacific Gas & Electric’s Metcalf transmission substation, knocking out 17 transformers.

    Electric officials were able to avert a blackout, but it took 27 days to repair the damage.


    The FBI doesn’t think the incident was a terror attack, an agency spokesman told the Journal. However, Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the time, disagrees.


    Wellinghoff, a now-retired George W. Bush appointee, called it “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the U.S. power grid that has ever occurred.”


    No arrests have been made in the case. But the Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee said Wednesday that lawmakers continue to follow the probe and that protecting the grid remains a top priority.


    "We are aware of the attack and continue to monitor the investigation closely,” a committee spokeswoman told FoxNews.com. “Committee staff has been briefed by agency officials and industry representatives. The security and reliability of the grid is a pressing concern, and we will continue our work to mitigate all emerging threats."


    Wellinghoff, who spoke to the Journal, based his conclusion that this was terrorism on the analysis of experts he brought to the crime scene. The analysis pointed to the shell casings having no fingerprints and evidence that the shooting positions had been pre-arranged.


    Wellinghoff went public with the story after briefing federal agencies, Congress and the White House, citing national security concerns and fear that electric-grid sites don’t have adequate protection.


    In addition, retired PG&E executive Mark Johnson said at an industry gathering a few months ago that he feared the attack was a dress rehearsal for a larger event, according to the Journal.


    The utility company responded to a call seeking comment by referring FoxNews.com to a statement from the Edison Electric Institute.


    "The industry takes its role as critical infrastructure providers very seriously," said Scott Aaronson, the institute's senior director of national security policy. "Publicizing clearly sensitive information about critical infrastructure protection endangers the safety of the American people and the integrity of the grid.”


    Joy Ditto, a vice president with the American Public Power Association, told FoxNews.com about a recent meeting on Capitol Hill that dealt specifically with the attack and included a bipartisan group of senators, industry executives and federal agencies.


    She said utility companies have been able to prevent such attacks in large part because they share information with related parties.


    However, she also said the meeting, which covered a broad range of topics, concluded with a commitment from executives to keep the senators better informed and a desire for additional legislation to legally protect those who share information about issues like attacks and disaster preparation.


    “But we’d prefer not to see more regulations,” she said.


    Though the attack on the San Jose substation didn’t cause a blackout, isolated incidents have in fact caused major problems on the U.S. electric grid.


    In 2003, for example, downed trees toppled transmission lines, creating a series of blackouts across Canada and the eastern U.S. that lasted for days.


    Security for the grid has long been a concern for government and the utility industry, but most recently the focus has been on the risk of cyber attacks.


    Mike Hyland, an APPA senior vice president, argued Wednesday the industry indeed took notice of the attack but has been on high alert for decades -- responding to such issues as the Y2K computer issue, the 9/11 terror attacks, Hurricane Katrina and most recently Superstorm Sandy.


    “The industry has done a good job of keeping security at the forefront,” he said.


    FoxNews.com's Joseph Weber contributed to this report.

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014...for-utilities/

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  2. #2
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    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Attack on electric grid raises alarm


    Damage to power station in shooting last year prompts worries over terrorism.


    By Evan Halper and Marc Lifsher
    February 6, 2014, 5:55 p.m.

    Shooters armed with assault rifles and some knowledge of electrical utilities have prompted new worries on the vulnerability of California's vast power grid.

    A 2013 attack on an electric substation near San Jose that nearly knocked out Silicon Valley's power supply was initially downplayed as vandalism by Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the facility's owner. Gunfire from semiautomatic weapons did extensive damage to 17 transformers that sent grid operators scrambling to avoid a blackout.


    But this week, a former top power regulator offered a far more ominous interpretation: The attack was terrorism, he said, and if circumstances had been just a little different, it could have been disastrous.




    Jon Wellinghoff, who was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when the shooting took place, said that attack was clearly executed by well-trained individuals seeking to do significant damage to the area, and he fears it was a test run for an even larger assault.

    "It would not be that hard to bring down the entire region west of the Rockies if you, in fact, had a coordinated attack like this against a number of substations," Wellinghoff said Thursday. "This [shooting] event shows there are people out there capable of such an attack."


    Wellinghoff's warning about the incident at PG&E's Metcalf substation was reported this week by the Wall Street Journal, expanding on a December report by Foreign Policy magazine.


    FBI
    officials said they are taking the shooting very seriously.


    "Based on the information we have right now, we don't believe it's related to terrorism," said Peter Lee, an FBI spokesman in San Francisco. But, he added, "Until we understand the motives, we won't be 100% sure it's not terrorism."


    Months after the shooting, the bureau has named no suspects.

    Potential terrorism scenarios usually involve elaborate cyberattacks, expertly executed hijackings or smuggled nuclear weapons. But concern grows that California may have come unnervingly close to learning that calamity might just as easily be inflicted by a few well-trained snipers.

    As law enforcement tries to piece together who fired at the electricity facility, lawmakers and analysts express bewilderment that little is being done to protect against a repeat performance.


    "We've got a vulnerability and we've got to get serious about fixing it," said Granger Morgan, who heads the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. "Almost everything we do in modern society relies on electricity."


    A National Research Council committee he chaired issued a 2007 report warning how easy it would be for a criminal enterprise to knock out the power grid in a way that "could deny large regions of the country access to bulk power systems for weeks or even months," leading to "turmoil, widespread public fear and an image of helplessness that would play directly into the hands of terrorists."


    The classified report was completed in 2007 and became public two years ago. Asked what has happened since then to protect the nation's electricity system, Morgan replied that very little has been done.


    The attack on the PG&E facility targeted the sophisticated transformers that are at the backbone of the nation's electricity grid.

    The giant pieces of equipment are essential, costly and could take months to replace. Knock out enough of them, experts warn, and an entire region can be crippled for an extended period. They are also typically out in the open like sitting ducks.


    On that April night, the attackers managed to disable 17 of them just by shooting through a chain-link fence. The bullet holes caused the transformers to leak thousands of gallons of oil, and ultimately overheat. Grid operators scrambled to reroute power from elsewhere to keep the system from collapse. The power stayed on, but just barely, because it happened during a time when demand for electricity was very low.


    "Fortunately it was spring and we did not have air conditioners running full throttle in the morning," said Stephanie McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the California Independent System Operator in Folsom, which runs most of the state's electrical grid. "That's why the situation was manageable."


    Wellinghoff, now a partner at the San Francisco law office Stoel Rives, said the grid's interdependence on substations across large swaths of the country — and a scarcity of spare equipment — makes it possible to trigger an enduring blackout across several states simply by destroying key transformers in one of them.


    Days after the April shooting, Wellinghoff flew out to review the damage with experts from the Pentagon and the FBI. They noticed piles of stones had been set up outside the site, apparently by someone who had scoped it out to guide the snipers.


    The bullet holes were carefully targeted so as not to hit the parts of the equipment that would cause an explosion and attract the attention of drivers on nearby U.S. 101. Of some 120 shots fired from at least 40 yards outside the fence, 110 of them hit transformers, Wellinghoff said.


    "A dress rehearsal" is how Mark Johnson, a retired vice president at PG&E, described the event to a Philadelphia gathering of electricity industry officials in November. Johnson said the attackers opened two 75-pound manhole covers and used a ladder to cut fiber-optic lines, a possible attempt to disconnect security cameras. They fired for seven minutes, targeting radiators on the banks of transformers.


    "This wasn't an incident where Billy-Bob and Joe decided after a bunch of brewskis they were going to shoot up a substation," he said.

    "When you look at this event and how calculated, how well organized and how well thought out it was, it clearly indicates that a chain-link fence was not enough to secure a substation."


    PG&E officials say they are taking steps to improve grid security and are consulting with government agencies on how best to do so.


    "This is definitely an unusual event and one we're taking very seriously," said Brian Swanson, a company spokesman. He said, though, that the fact that grid operators were able to keep the lights on after the shooting shows the company was prepared, and has procedures and technology in place to protect against sabotage.


    Congress has been battling for years over proposals that would force utilities to do more. One proposed measure, the Grid Reliability Infrastructure and Defense Act, would have given federal regulators authority to impose specific rules. It sailed through the House but died in the Senate in 2010.


    Its author, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who was then a congressman, blamed its demise on aggressive lobbying by electricity companies.


    Evan.halper@latimes.com


    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-f...#ixzz2sfBWbPmW
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  4. #4
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Lawmakers push to protect electric grid after report on attack

    Published February 07, 2014 FoxNews.com




    Lawmakers are pushing to impose federal standards for protecting the country's electric grid from attack in the wake of a new report about a sniper assault on a California electrical substation last year that has raised fears the power grid is vulnerable to terrorism.

    The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she and fellow senators plan to ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has jurisdiction over the electric grid's reliability, to "set minimum security standards for critical substations."


    The April 16, 2013 the attack on Pacific Gas & Electric’s Metcalf transmission substation involved snipping AT&T fiber-optic lines to knock out phone and 911 service, and firing shots into a PG&E substation, causing outages. The assault had not been widely publicized until The Wall Street Journal reported new detailsin a story on Wednesday.


    The FBI is the lead agency in the investigation and an agency spokesman told the newspaper it doesn’t think the incident was a terror attack. However, Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the time, called it "the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the U.S. power grid that has ever occurred."


    The incident began when intruders lifted heavy manhole covers at about 1:30 a.m. in two places on Monterey Highway south of San Jose, climbed under the road, and cut AT&T fiber optic cables, temporarily knocking out 911 service and phone service.


    In a 19-minute period, gunmen fired more than 100 rounds into substation equipment, disabling 17 of 20 big transformers, causing about $16 million in damage, according to The Wall Street Journal. No arrests have been made in the case.


    In December, during an oversight hearing, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., described "an unprecedented and sophisticated attack on an electric grid substation with military-style weapons. Communications were disrupted. The attack inflicted substantial damage."


    He said he would withhold details of the incident to avoid harming the investigation but added he had been in touch with the FBI about it.


    One proposal being discussed in Congress is would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the power to write and impose interim rules on grid defenses. The utility industry would still be able to influence any permanent requirements, according to the Journal.


    Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said "the last thing I want to do is regulate any industry." But he told the newspaper utilities must do more to protect the grid for the sake of national security.


    Under current law, the commission has to accept or reject proposals written by an industry-dominated group, but cannot alter them, according to the report.


    Some utility industry executives told the Journal it would be difficult to come up with rules for improving security that would work in both urban and rural areas.


    "One size fits all may not get you true resiliency," said Lisa Barton, executive vice president of transmission for American Electric Power, adding that increasing protections could be costly. "I'm not saying it isn't worth it," she said.


    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014...cmp=latestnews

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