San Jose Area PG&E Metcalf Substation Attacked: $250,000 Reward

Two incidents of “sabotage” happened in the San Jose, California area on April 16, 2013. The PG&E Metcalf substation was entered through manholes. High-powered rifles were used to damage transformers, and a month later a man dressed in black was seen “lurking” near the area. Reward information at end of this article.

FBI Investigates PG&E Metclaf Substation "Sabotage"

FBI Investigates PG&E Metclaf Substation “Sabotage”

Around 1:00 AM on April 16, at least one individual (possibly two) entered two different manholes at the PG&E Metcalf power substation, southeast of San Jose, and cut fiber cables in the area around the substation. That knocked out some local 911 services, landline service to the substation, and cell phone service in the area, a senior U.S. intelligence official told Foreign Policy. The intruder(s) then fired more than 100 rounds from what two officials described as a high-powered rifle at several transformers in the facility. Ten transformers were damaged in one area of the facility, and three transformer banks — or groups of transformers — were hit in another, according to a PG&E spokesman.

Cooling oil then leaked from a transformer bank, causing the transformers to overheat and shut down. State regulators urged customers in the area to conserve energy over the following days, but there was no long-term damage reported at the facility and there were no major power outages. There were no injuries reported. That was the good news. The bad news is that officials don’t know who the shooter(s) were, and most importantly, whether further attacks are planned. Source: Foreign Policy

Initial assessments were that this was a case of vandalism, but the FBI is now investigating and CBS San Francisco called it “sabotage” almost immediately.

The vandal’s objective appears to have been “shutting down the system,” Sheriff Laurie Smith said at a news conference at the substation Tuesday afternoon.

“We don’t have a suspect,” she said. “It seems like the same perpetrator or perpetrators to me.”

Both incidents happened early Tuesday morning in the area of Metcalf Road and Monterey Highway, just southeast of San Jose city limits.

The underground cables, protected by manhole covers, were cut shortly before 1:30 a.m. in two locations along Monterey Highway, Smith said.

Some of the cables, comprised of bundled fiber optic cords, were cut near Monterey Highway and Coyote Ranch Road, AT&T spokesman George Ross said.

He said the cables there are AT&T lines but that some other service providers piggyback off of them.

A number of South Bay customers lost landline and cellphone service, and the damage also initially knocked out some 911 call systems in the area.

A short time after the cables were cut, around 1:45 a.m., the sheriff’s office and San Jose police received reports of gunfire in the area of Monterey Highway and Blanchard Road, sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Kurtis Stenderup said. Source: CBS San Francisco

The attack happened on the day after the Boston Marathon bombings. Perhaps that’s why this story was not noticed by many. ForeignPolicy.com is asking why we are not paying more attention to the physical state and security of our power grids.

A shooter “could get 200 yards away with a .22 rifle and take the whole thing out,” Wellinghoff said last month at a conference sponsored by Bloomberg. His proposed defense: A metal sheet that would block the transformer from view. “If you can’t see through the fence, you can’t figure out where to shoot anymore,” Wellinghoff said. Price tag? A “couple hundred bucks.” A lot cheaper than the billions the administration has spent in the past four years beefing up cyber security of critical infrastructure in the United States and on government computer networks. Source: Foreign Policy

One month after the attacks, a man dressed in all black was seen “lurking” near the substation. A manhunt ensued with no results. Here’s the reward info:

AT&T is offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office can contact investigators at 408-808-4431.

Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga. Source: Mercury News