A former federal energy official has said he thinks the substation attack was a dress rehearsal for something bigger. The FBI dismisses that, but the agency did persuade PG&E to offer that reward.
PG&E surveillance video captured the sneak attack. It was just after 1:30 a.m. last April when someone slipped into the Metcalf Substation. Fiber optic phone lines were cut and a rifle shot up transformers. More than $15 million worth of damage was done.
"It was a game changer from the standpoint of it was a pretty big attack on a major substation," PG&E Vice President Gregg Lemler said. "It opened a lot of eyes in the industry."
PG&E is now offering a quarter million dollar reward for information leading to an arrest. The head of the federal energy regulatory commission recently called what happened at Metcalf a case of domestic terrorism, but the FBI continues to insist that's not the case.
"The FBI San Francisco field has no indications at the time that this is related to terrorism or terrorism activity," spokesperson Peter Lee said.
PG&E plans to spend $100 million over the next three years in enhanced security at its substations, including intruder detection systems.
According to an industry executive, all utilities will have new federal security standards.
"The bottom line is protection of our critical infrastructure and in the event there is an incident our ability to recover quickly," Edison Electric Institute spokesperson James Fama said.
At Metcalf, some temporary tweaks have already been made. There are now 24/7 security guards. They have trimmed the undergrowth to remove potential hiding spots. They have erected fencing and shields and have enhanced camera technology and increased lighting.
The utility says it's too soon to talk about how the millions for security upgrades will impact ratepayers. Shareholders will pay for the reward, which the FBI hopes will break the case.
"No lead or piece of information is too small," special agent in charge Dave Johnson said.
The day after the incident last year, AT&T came forward with a $250,000 reward.
FBI Anonymous Tip Line: 553-7400