Bill introduced to have utilities develop security plan

Lawmakers in Sacramento will soon take up a bill requiring electric utility companies in California to boost their security plans.
March 10, 2014 4:58:46 PM PDT
Lawmakers in Sacramento will soon take up a bill requiring electric utility companies in California to boost their security plans. The legislation was introduced Monday, following last year's attack on a Pacific Gas and Electric substation near San Jose.

Electrical substations are potential targets for any terrorist. That was proven last April at PG&E's Metcalf substation, south of San Jose when 17 transformers were knocked out by heavy gunfire. A blackout was averted because PG&E managed to re-route power around the site.

PG&E admits the incident was a game changer for them and the entire industry.

"Right after the attack occurred, we immediately began aggressive work to assess our security and improve it," said PG&E spokesperson Brian Swanson.

Rick Smith is a former agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"What's the goal, you know, to scare people, to inflict damage or to cause disruption? And, here, if you don't have any power, you obviously have disruption. And, the message is that our facilities were vulnerable," said Smith.

Since then, PG&E has worked with federal and local agencies and security consultants to beef up security. The utility says it will spend $100 million over four years on its most critical facilities.

But State Senator Jerry Hill wants the utilities to follow a security plan mandated by the state. If passed, all electric utility companies will have to perform risk assessments, evaluate potential treats and develop a security plan.

"What we see today is we have, you know, cyclone fences and maybe security cameras. It doesn't take a lot more to make sure that that's being monitored on a 24 hour basis," said Hill.

Hill believes the utility companies should not have to foot the entire bill. Customers should also help pay for the cost of the upgrades.

"But, I think we have to look, more importantly, at what would the costs be if we didn't have electricity for six months. What would that do to our economy," he said.

If Hill's legislation comes through, all new security plans will be enforced by the California Public Utilities Commission.


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