Around 1:00 AM on April 16, at least one individual (possibly two) entered two different manholes at the PG&E Metcalf power substation, southeast of San Jose, and cut fiber cables in the area around the substation. That knocked out some local 911 services, landline service to the substation, and cell phone service in the area, a senior U.S. intelligence official told Foreign Policy. The intruder(s) then fired more than 100 rounds from what two officials described as a high-powered rifle at several transformers in the facility. Ten transformers were damaged in one area of the facility, and three transformer banks — or groups of transformers — were hit in another, according to a PG&E spokesman.
Then there is this,
“Initially, the attack was being treated as vandalism and handled by local law enforcement,” the senior intelligence official said. “However, investigators have been quoted in the press expressing opinions that there are indications that the timing of the attacks and target selection indicate a higher level of planning and sophistication.”
No news story would be complete without political bloviating by one of the best bloviaters in Washington, DC.
“It is clear that the electric grid is not adequately protected from physical or cyber attacks,” Waxman said. He called the shooting at the the San Jose facility “an unprecedented and sophisticated attack on an electric grid substation with military-style weapons. Communications were disrupted. The attack inflicted substantial damage. It took weeks to replace the damaged parts. Under slightly different conditions, there could have been serious power outages or worse.”
Being Waxman, it could have been a kid with a BB gun and he’d bloviate about military style weapons and terrorism. It’s what that stooge does.
I give this more credence since it came from someone who was in the industry and who would allow his name to be used.
“These were not amateurs taking potshots,” Mark Johnson, a former vice president for transmission operations at PG&E, said last month at a conference on grid security held in Philadelphia. “My personal view is that this was a dress rehearsal” for future attacks.
One last quote,
A shooter “could get 200 yards away with a .22 rifle and take the whole thing out,” Wellinghoff said last month at a conference sponsored by Bloomberg.
I don’t know about the caliber, but certainly someone could do that. I don’t know that his idea would work all that well either. I wonder if someone with a little bit of map reading and math ability could figure out where to aim through sheet metal to hit something inside? I’d guess yes, but that’s a guess.
I can think of a couple of groups that would want to stage an attack like this. The first is one of the environmental activists groups. Some of them have been labeled terrorist groups by the FBI and some members have gone to prison for other property crimes. The second would be our old friend the Islamofascists. The bigger threat with them would be a similar attack on a nuclear facility. Imagine the fun they could have with an attack on a power plant with nuclear materials inside. How about an attack where the objective is to go in and cause the reactor to run wild? We wouldn’t get a nuclear Kaboom, but we might get some pretty nasty contamination. Not to mention the damage to the grid and the loss of electricity. Even better if the fiber and copper that carries communications (including radio and computer traffic for public safety) can be disrupted and the tunnels contaminated so it might be months or more before it’s safe enough to go down and rebuild the system.
There’s a good bit of hypebole in some of the quotes, but there is one thing that we do know. Terrorists have a habit of attacking spots that are weak and not generally regarded as targets.