State Sen. Jerry Hill today announced legislation that he said would require utilities to develop security plans to prevent attacks like one that caused more than $15 million in damage to a PG&E substation near San Jose last April.
Hill, D-San Mateo, held a news conference to announce Senate Bill 699.
Hill said the bill would force utilities to come up with plans to make the power grid less vulnerable to threats, reduce the consequences of possible attacks and improve the speed of power restoration in the event of such an attack.
“We should not fear the security of our electric system,” he said. The legislation comes after an overnight attack on April 16, 2013, by a sniper who knocked out 17 giant transformers at PG&E’s Metcalf substation south of San Jose and cut nearby underground fiber optic cables.
Hill said it took PG&E personnel more than 90 minutes to arrive at the scene after the attack, according to Hill.
No one has been arrested in the case, and crews spent nearly a month repairing all of the damage, which cost $15.4 million, he said.
Hill said the attack “should be a wake-up call” about security problems at utility sites. During today’s news conference, he pointed behind him to the Hunters Point substation.
“It’s just a fence,” Hill said. “It wouldn’t take much to get in there.”
His legislation would also require utilities to coordinate with law enforcement agencies in the event of deliberate destruction of utility equipment, and consult with the California Highway Patrol to designate certain utility employees as first responders to destructive cases.
If the bill becomes law, utilities that don’t comply with the new regulations would face sanctions from the California Public Utilities Commission, Hill said.
PG&E spokesman Brian Swanson said the utility does not have a formal position yet on Hill’s legislation but said PG&E officials think that any state legislation should mirror actions taken by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to develop security standards at the national level.
“We’ve already begun work on most of the upgrades and enhancements outlined by FERC,” including creating additional “buffer zones” with additional fencing, adding enhanced intruder detection systems and improving lighting at high-priority sites, Swanson said.
“Ever since the attack occurred at Metcalf, we’ve been working with federal and local agencies and security consultants to improve substation security throughout our system,” he said.