Power grid attack in California raises concerns locally

Published: Feb. 11, 2014 at 3:50 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A barrage of bullets that targeted a power grid more than 2,000 miles away has raised concerns locally, and now the Louisiana Public Service Commission will seek an update on security measures.

The attack on the Pacific Gas & Electric Company's substation last spring near San Jose, Calif.,  almost knocked out power to Silicon Valley. Surveillance video captured sparks from bullets hitting the metal fence around the substation.

And last week, the former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Jon Wellinghoff, said the attack was terrorism. The FBI says it has no information to back up that assertion.

"The question becomes was it an act of vandalism, or more?" said Eric Skrmetta, Chairman of the Louisiana Public Service Commission.

On Capitol Hill, there have also been concerns raised about the attack that knocked out nearly 20 transformers in California.

"This was an unprecedented attack on an electrical grid substation using military-style weapons," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

"It could have been an act of terrorism, it could have been an attempt to disengage the system, so that the copper could be looted," said Skrmetta.

He said Monday during a PSC meeting that a directive will be issued to Louisiana utilities to provide the commission with an update on security for not only their physical facilities, but also their cyber systems.

"It's important that we get updated reports from the utilities, and on the cyber-security end, it's about making sure that we protect the consumers' data and we protect and restrict all potential access to the companies' system from the outside," said Skrmetta.

Skrmetta also wants to be briefed again by the FBI.

Entergy issued the following statement:

"Entergy takes its role of protecting the grid very seriously. Entergy and the entire utility industry know our infrastructure is vital to national security and to the safety and well-being of all Americans. That's why Entergy works closely with utilities across the nation and with senior officials from all relevant federal and law enforcement agencies to protect the grid's most critical assets from intentional or unintentional cyber and/or physical events. Entergy is well aware of last spring's incident in California, and other threats to the electric grid, and continuously works to improve security and apply lessons learned from all incidents and all threats to the grid," the statement reads."

A CLECO spokesperson said, "Cleco is aware of the event and has been in meetings with other utilities discussing this topic and ways to mitigate such events."

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