WASHINGTON -- Alarmed by the shooting attack on a Silicon Valley-area power station last spring, several senators called on regulators to review security operations at electrical utilities and consider imposing new rules to protect against future attacks.
"Last year's sophisticated attack on the Metcalf substation in California's Silicon Valley was a wake-up call to the risk of physical attacks on the grid," said a letter the senators sent regulators Friday. "The incident came uncomfortably close to causing a shutdown of a critical substation which could have resulted in a massive blackout in California and elsewhere in the West."
The letter was signed by Senate Majority Leader
The April shooting at a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. facility was originally downplayed by authorities as an act of vandalism. It had attracted little congressional interest until this week, when a former top power regulator offered a more chilling interpretation. He said the attack was terrorism.
Jon Wellinghoff, who was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when the shooting took place, said it was clearly executed by well-trained individuals seeking to do significant damage. He expressed concern it could have been a test run for a larger assault that could knock out power in a swath of the country for an extended period of time.
The letter from the senators comes as
"A physical attack on the bulk power system certainly falls comfortably within that definition," the letter said.