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Jerry Hill pushes utility security bill
March 11, 2014, 05:00 AM By Paul Elias The Associated

SAN FRANCISCO — Sniper sabotage of a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. substation last year prompted a California lawmaker to introduce legislation on Monday that would require state utilities to beef up security.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, announced the proposed legislation at a press conference in San Francisco.

Hill said the April shooting attack at a substation near San Jose exposed serious security holes. The sniper bullets knocked out 17 transformers powering parts of Silicon Valley and caused $15 million in damage.

Officials rerouted power to avoid a blackout, but it took PG&E workers nearly a month to repair the damage. No arrests have been made.

Former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said the attack on the grid was an act of terrorism. The incident is under investigation by the FBI, which says it has found no indication of terrorism.

Rules for protecting physical sites such as transformers and substations are voluntary, though FERC is working on instituting mandatory compliance policies.

Hill’s bill would require utilities to assess security risks and make needed improvements. The bill would also require utilities to better coordinate responses to security breaches with law enforcement.

Hill said the security measures are needed to prevent terrorist attacks on the state’s and nation’s electrical grid system.

A padlocked gate prevented law enforcement officials from getting into the PG&E facility attacked by snipers, and authorities left when they were unable to see the damage or anything amiss. PG&E officials responding to alarms discovered the damaged transformers about 90 minutes later. By then, nearly 55,000 gallons of oil had leaked from the transformers.

“We can’t count on PG&E to do the right thing,” Hill said. “We need to put in place things that prevent that from happening again.”

PG&E spokesman Brian Swanson said the utility is reviewing bill.

Swanson said the utility began revamping its security after the attack and that PG&E supports the efforts of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“We think any state legislation should mirror the actions of FERC,” Swanson said.

 

 

Tags: security, transformers, require, would, utilities, legislation,


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