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WILK News Radio>Audio & Video on Demand>>LA Tarone with Jon Wellinghoff

LA Tarone with Jon Wellinghoff

Feb 11, 2014|

Was the Attack on the San Jose Power Station Domestic Terrorism? Immediate past Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Jon Wellinghoff is an internationally recognized energy law attorney and clean tech energy expert.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Lance go to the news -- airline Bonnie is mr. John. Law firm but more importantly he is deep -- chairman and. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the longest serving chair of that organization first nominated to recede. On nine the FERC is a commissioner in 2006 by President Bush reappointed by President Obama. And named the chairman now by our president now Obama. And even before daddy didn't they served on the that is version of the PUCMR well enough good evening great pleasure to have you -- -- and I thank you for being here. Well great great to be on the show thank you LA appreciate having having me on the show. So last week I heard this story on any PR. That I hadn't heard of before was -- incident in San Jose where somebody had shot up. Our power generator. Gain you're among the people quoting now I went looking online and I found very little coverage I saw a story in the Wall Street Journal one in the USA today and that was about it. What happened and that incident first of all. Well. Include an incident that occurred. By April 16. Of last year at a high voltage. Substation. That contain not power plants -- generators but instead contained high voltage transformers are used. Take power from. Generating station that maybe a couple miles or more away and step of the -- did you move them to high voltage transmission lines to move the hour long distances across country. And there's some under her so these kinds of very critical high voltage facilities. That are around the United States. This time on it April 16. About 1 o'clock in the morning a group of individuals. The first went to a series of cable -- about two to 300 yards away from the substation. Pulled off some very heavy covers two -- in -- covers cut down those cable -- and cut 911. Fiber optic cable. Then after they got through doing that they got -- cable bolts put that covers back gonna come the most complete Emeka looked like no one. -- entered them. Then they walked across to -- last year and stood behind eight. Substation did not go through the chain link fence to actually sit 4050 yards outside of that and a number of individuals and probably to at least. Set up. Firing positions with AK 47 type weapons and then made another individual thought that was in the same field with them. Apparently signal them to commence firing with a flashlight. It's 810. -- fired for some nineteen minutes since shot approximately 120 rounds of which -- 110. If they're targets their targets were very precisely. Designated. Portions of these transformers were to actually the calling him one of the more vulnerable parts of them where oil then -- south end result is these transformers effort. A number of hours actually turn off because of the -- -- they're no longer being called by the oil. So that's basically what happened. In that in that situation seventeen transformers were knocked out. And doing that three of them remained operating. And as a result there was no power outage because. I was very low power usage at the time it was. People load time abusing power and it was a night as well so they were able to keep the power back on but they did. In fact. Damage to these very critical pieces of our electric infrastructure. And it says this is ascending power out to a Silicon Valley is that right that's correct. This phone you've just described I think that whenever. Is an instant power station we have number around here and -- copper thieves. -- -- -- -- on guy zone on dating and he's probably had a couple of bears and he's a little boarding -- what happens and by shoot that that's not what this sounds like this sounds like it was very well organized. Well that will be very well planned attack they planted in fact we even determine that are appear to be targeting stones set up in places that. I had a time they'll allow them to within come at night and find their targeting positions that had been pre planned so I was very well planned. And it was very well executed -- she had a number of individuals on the field 46 yards from -- targets. With AK 47 with muzzle flash interface the F there really at the targets some 110 out of 120 times I mean that's remarkable. Marksmanship so these people were well trained they know what the targets -- they didn't hit. -- bush scenes which are. These -- so on top that actually connect the transformers to the power lines if they get those who could have been explosions they're filled with oil. They knew what not to get. To -- too much. Immediate. Attention to what they were doing infected substation Israel along highway one a one -- But yet no one song they think someone didn't hear the shots though about 600 yards away there was a a power plants. That there's an operator -- 24 hours -- -- unlike these sub stations where there's nobody there most of the time certainly not a night. He called the police on a cell phone because of land line with a working Brian. Flight to make up and -- I here's something -- shots later firecrackers I don't know what it is. Come -- look but the police came and these people who are shooting apparently had communication so let them know the police were coming. -- flashlight signal went off again at the end of nineteen minutes. Everybody stop shooting they all left. The police came they saw nothing but they didn't know anybody was shooting into the substation but he knew there was noise from the area. They looked all around it they -- overall the road they saw nothing in the police actually left. So these people were sophisticated enough to know when the police were coming. To stop doing what they're doing and the getaway without any evidence the only evidence that was left with a 140 around. There were picked up that no DNA and no fingerprints on them. I don't wow. Why how. What -- the goal of that deep. If I in Wales for from the standpoint I yet I guy and I as a little odd question to ask former bush. -- chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission but if you could put yourself in the opposition -- and what would they be looking to do they did not succeed in knocking out power that. -- -- the goal certainly wasn't they have been a wild crazy phone on Monday night I mean because that there was there was some purposeful goal to try to knock out that's substation. Or four. To at least. Test what you could do at a substation. And then have that information and that data available with for them to potentially. Do further. -- Like this that could cause further damage. So you know it's hard to speculate then but but you know I don't want to speculate what I wanna do is say look what are the facts. We know the people now are capable of this. We know that there is people who have. The training and expertise to go in and caused. This type of significant damage to these facilities and these facilities are important I think there is important -- are making her. Power plants to be reliability and stability of the grip. And so as such -- Protect them with the least four more than chain link fence around them and more than maybe a camera two and some. Some interior security lights that's basically what -- always facilities out we need to up that. Considerably we need that at least make the central basically can't deploy it. You know and and shoot edit for not only 46 yards but you know from a good they may be hundred. -- a 12100 at the -- 15100 yards if you get the right right form rights go you don't wanna beat the people to be able to do that in target things. And you hopefully one look at better lights that are security cameras perhaps maybe some physical barriers in front of the actual transformers themselves. Or other things which actually. What I would prefer we and the catalyst all lead -- exactly as the country after this sense that we made up of a list. Until -- and who was there might have often been energy infrastructure security is still up for a he was in charge of putting this list together. -- -- -- he's been near term mid term and long term mitigation measures that they could undertake that they should consider undertaking to protect these substation. How many utilities have undertaken anything on that list. I don't know unfortunately. That's one reason why. I am not ready to speak out in. They -- more publicly about it because I think we need to bring this to the attention of the public. So that more is done overall. Though Wall Street Journal quote she was saying this was the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grade. -- has ever occur to. Well I know I don't know of any other more purposeful. Well planned and well executed attack on the grip but he wanna call -- terrorism or not there's lot of dispute about that I really don't care. The issue is this was. A purposeful. Planned. And executed attack that was done in a very very professional manner. They -- it went after very critical targets that are currently. Unprotected. That need to be protected. Com. How. Yeah. Yeah let's do this first how how me vulnerable is the United States' power grade 21 attack. Well that this incident I think illustrated that is extremely vulnerable. Because these are critical facilities -- high voltage transformers and they are unprotected totally. Really totally unprotected. So given the fact that you basically can get the equipment you need at a Wal-Mart. To do this. And some level of training. That you know yes this was highly sophisticated but again not sure how much trade need to do a coordinated attack. On multiple facilities that could literally bring the -- down. So he he really do have to be concerned about the level of preparedness. And the level of protection. That we have in these facilities. So you so I idea I mean this is viewed as something that against talked about on not some in the late night radio shows like this and until this incident I had kind of written them off. As summing -- belongs on late night or overnight radio but this you know really stood out that hey this could really happened. So we say a coordinated attack if there's a group that attacks. Two or three power grids in two or three places say one and the northeast one in the southeast and one in the west. Commercially shut down my country going to. Didn't you could have a very devastating effect and I think the most interesting thing is -- we have they have this event to really get -- Sophie utilities and the as the government -- attention that you have. -- this is nothing new hope this speculation as to whether or not this vulnerability existed and in the National Academy of Sciences. National Research Council issued a report in 2012 called terrorism. And the electric power delivery system. Then back in 2004 there was a report put out by the congressional research service. Flew with which was titled. Electric utility infrastructure vulnerabilities transformers. Towers and terrorism. And then their support back in 1981. By. The comptroller general reports the United States congress called federal electrical emergency preparedness is an adequate. 190801. That came out. Yet like anyone and then there was a gentleman's. Who's. An energy futuristic and and writer by any -- we love and -- took in 1981. Report and from that. Wrote a book in 1983 called brutal power talking about how bread or whole electric system -- to these kind of vulnerability -- potential physical attacks. Except for a itself. You know this is something that's been talked about any industry any government for many many many years. But now we have -- our real lives physical example of the capabilities. Of bad actors out there whoever they are whatever you wanna call them. Bad actors out there who could have the capabilities. To cripple us. So let's not let them cripple us -- in fact go out and do something that needs to be done. Desperately in that is protect these very high value. High voltage substation. Mr. like how can I ask you to hold on through a commercial break of about three and a half minutes chirp tied -- -- we're speaking with that John -- -- is a former chairman. On the federal energy regulatory commission and. -- ballots that tech incident did and that's San Jose California. We'll continue our discussion after we paid a property taxes will break will be back into 819 and sell rides around on W -- -- -- -- Where it is day 23 runners trigger line went by John -- half the -- former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. I we're talking about -- to attack that I talked about last weekend's. -- -- in San Jose California. Well -- -- -- did an investigation and has their day in and he got talked on potential suspects a police investigation. Into any of this at all. Well my my understanding is that this is. In the hands of the FBI. I believe they have both conducted an investigation -- and -- this investigation is ongoing. -- it's my understanding that there are no suspects. You know as I indicated that it's. There was no no DNA imminent or no fingerprint evidence the only evidence would be brass casings from the Steve rifles that -- fired there at that location. So -- they you know I don't I don't believe that there has been any breaks in the case but but the cases in the hands of the FBI. Are you who dissatisfied. With the pace of that investigation and that may be either should have been. A more intense investigation. Well if it's not up to me and I'm not gonna -- as they can get the FF BI they've got a job to do and they're much better at doing it and I am. You know unfortunately they don't have a lot to work went straight through -- they just. -- know that they're facing a group of individuals to begin were very well trained and executed this in the very. Very competent manner to leave as little evidence behind as possible and they they accomplish that. If you were if I were to speculate. On potential. Suspects organizations. Problem. Is there's always you think. Terrorism from the Middle East. I would also think. Like. What's her name elf and -- the Earth Liberation Front and some are almost. Would any of those seen in your mind beef. Potential suspects. They. I am. It's not going to spelled LA LA -- just you know again what what I focused on as the facts actually happened here to. And what happened was against somebody you know what they're doing when outdated -- to get a good job in the good job they did. Frightens me to death -- a test and because they get that good job we need to figure out how to do our job better to protect these things. Com I I eighty in in the Wall Street Journal story notes that -- utility industry has been focused on Internet attacks and I heard that as well that we have to watch that there's no way Internet attacks to shut down on the power -- This was completely different this was in effect an extremely well organized case of the lives and. -- put this was a physical attack that was. You know completely separate from many cyber security or Internet attack. Com and shows that we have a vulnerability. That in my opinion I think is that I hire more. Serious level of risk. Man a year net or cyber security -- I don't know of any cyber security -- -- ever has occurred on any electric facility in this country that had the level of damage and devastation that this -- on seventeen transformers. And while I noticed one person who agrees or do you is Stephen ever Reich. Crazy executive director of the California independent system operator he called it a big if not bigger -- meaning. These types of physical attacks vs cyber attack. CST yes Steve has communicated communities. He's very concerned about this and I know the utilities are too and -- -- certainly are trying to do everything they can. I'm sure. Two you know protect these things but you know they have you know competing. Things pulling them like people asking them to do more cyber security out there so. You know I can sort of understand their side I really believe that this is a national issue that should be -- taken off the utilities stacks and really -- debt. From a national security perspective just like we look at you know commercial airline traffic is you know there's the security there is this in the hands of the federal government. Yeah I went straight needed this should be something under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security because this certainly would be an attack on Homeland Security. Yes absolutely I think there's no question but that there that would have to be congressional authority to do that and I'm -- actually. As and they are actually were a number of bills during the time that I was. At the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That proposed that -- give authority to one agency or another on this issue what they call known threats and vulnerabilities. Of of the electric infrastructure system. They never could get a bill passed unfortunately it's. Com it's what would you recommend as a way to. He tried to guard against this is that some of the things you Michelle like like I mentioned this last week I got a call from somebody is that when I saw stories somewhere. That said some power company in Idaho or something is going to build a wall. Not around it's -- transformers and stuff like that is it is simple battery isn't a lot more complicated well that's. That's certainly is the first step by mean you know or just you know even if it is an -- -- you can put. Middle flat serves or fiberglass slats in the fence that would stop you from seeing through -- content that's certainly if you actually them make that. All one that would you know slow down some. Bullet or other -- thing you know a bullet ballistic project dial. That. Might have these shots from outside that would help was well I mean -- go to extremes and in the Chinese for example some of their facilities are buried underground. I mean they have for example in Shanghai a very large. Substation that has very. High voltage transformers but it's buried in the middle of Shanghai. And so that obviously is. You know three stories down something that you know is very expensive to do and I'm not suggesting that they -- not suggesting that we have to do something. The protect in all you know 45000. Sub stations and the same power drives the top hundred most vulnerable. Most. Critical from a standpoint of critical nodes in in this in the tendon in her in the electric grid and then by. Trying to do that. Do the most cost of that -- things first the chicken -- quickest like make the -- so Paco. Maybe set -- Jersey barriers in front of the the transformers which of these concrete barriers that you can move around with a forklift kind of thing forever occurring in. Number of things that can be done that are relatively inexpensive relative relatively quick to do. Yeah I was gonna say what day your Bryan is suggesting here is not something that's gonna cost six fortunes or anything in a couple of Jersey barriers in different -- is not tremendously expensive. This is true. I'm not. A security guard at senate because I know they may just open one not far from here and humbled industrial park about maybe 25 miles where I'm standing right now. -- ever I I they made it very plain that they got some state money and they said this will not creating any jobs and there's nobody is ever going to be here. They -- in the middle. The industrial park where there's nobody around for months. In the day yes they'll let left sever ties with this we'll -- unguarded yeah. -- I know and then and you know guards could help but I think these things like -- bit and it's just fences and barriers. Can even help more I mean ultimately. You know I guess if you really intent on doing simply could take up the guards is well taken out. The transformers. You know what's so horrible thing to think about but first people -- -- -- -- that would do these kind of things will go to any end unfortunately. How advanced is the electrical grade in the United States. And the reason I ask that is if they were to knock out a trend transfer station can you switch power from someplace else covered but I just did this story here about an hour golf. About as dean without power for five day -- in suburban Philadelphia in 2014 I find better still and. It is astounding because. You know there are certain certain critical nodes of the grid the they say you know probably a hundred or less throughout the country in the three different interconnect -- western Texas set. You know post those critical notes. Are very. Sensitive to being. Destroyed damaged or knocked out and if you get those. Then if you remember the 2003 blackout where there was safe. Truly it's simply touched a power line and it cost 50000 people to be out of power for over fifty million people excuse me. To be out of power for over three days. You know the that patent fundamentally change from 2003. I mean yes we put in more. Sensing equipment we put in. Thanks to make it more reliable overall. And we've done huge trees trimmed mean we have we have now treat for -- program I missed this for 33 countries like crazy. Yet we we don't you know we don't protect these substation. Yeah I as a matter of fact I'm laughing because one of the utilities and services as part of Pennsylvania that's one of its advertising pitches that -- it is more tree tremors them. Then the other utilities so it is a -- yeah well -- com. I mean this this is this is potentially very and enormous. Problem because. If if you target and I do I guess I said this before but if you -- targeted 23 maybe four areas in the United States. Is it conceivable you could basically knocked out power in the United States over boom the majority of the country. Yes it's conceivable that they absolutely conceivable that you could do what to do this with a few well organized teams and individuals. With very you know. Readily accessible equipment basically that you can buy at Wal-Mart. -- yes yes it did this to become extremely conceivable. But I don't wanna find out if it's possible. Biological and I -- instead it's you know go with then do we need to do and that's put up you know the risk mitigation measures. And protections. At these that these critical most of ensure that we don't have to try it out. 270. According to a Wall Street Journal 270 for a significant instances of vandalism or deliberate damage in the last three years obviously none on the it stand dove but of this but didn't -- are you a plane with any of those to any of those stand out. -- thought no I'm I'm acquainted with many of those and none of them none of them. Who rise to level most of those were copper theft file. I would say from sub stations. People try and it trying to steal copper under the sub stations. -- -- there was a lot of couple incidents in Arkansas this summer. The world how little higher level were there was an individual who's -- I think now being evaluated psychiatric Lee who is. Wrapping wires around this trend. Transmission towers and put him across the railroad tracks try to -- the towers down films rather. -- is extremely and sophisticated it FBI caught in the them because this man in the matter week. Usually we all kind of evidence behind in the you know kind of thing that. There was nothing like street level of sophistication. And execution. That we've seen in this one incident and if you can scour all those other instance you'll not find anything that approaches this one. Is there a way to improve the fails say -- backup systems and. Bad it's that kind of events some where an attack on two with -- power stations couldn't shut down the entire country or is it simply security the better walls in Jersey barriers and all that sort of thing. Really concerned you can certainly get a get a yes solar system on your house. That's one location to a yellow you know district district and seriously distributed power is certainly something that more and more people are considering them considering because of things like hurricanes and the end of the ice ice storms in -- and then in the midwest and maybe stick in the AM. In the in the little country and you know throughout many parts of the country to get terrible ice storms this year and we'll. In past years that have taken down power lines all those kinds of events that continue to knock out power the one you just talked about Philadelphia -- based. You know we're demonstrating the people what they need to get more local control the power. One thing that could be done to reduce this and -- this cascading out each from these notes. Across the entire interconnect with the break would be to break them up in this small rural. Sub regional and regional grids. Michael good. And regional grids and indeed do that we you'd have what they called DC. Buses -- -- great analogy HC alternating current but I didn't instead if you. If you broke up those alternating current. -- to what they see. Switch connectors in between them you could in an essence isolate them. Very quickly from each other so they wouldn't have a cascading effect across an entire interconnect that now we can have the way the system set up. Imagine having to simulate their is that they're gonna until the very controversial. Op -- -- power line. I in now part of this area to transmit power to wider -- New Jersey or long islanders something. It just seems gotten. Crazy if you will that we're transmitting power over such a why you hear what you know like a wide spaced. Dead if we produced locally and sonic can't do it locally. And I'm like agree that that wouldn't happen or not. Well again and again this long is that the crickets could be could be isolated and -- and so that they would be. Not affected by each other's frequency incursions on the script with the effect his wife. By the nearby one if you had a -- keep us -- between them but that doesn't mean we shouldn't transport. Powerful long distances because there's. -- power to be developed especially when power in the in the midwest. Mid continent of the country there's huge amount to window there is extremely cheap. You know could be provided to the East Coast but again. He should have ways disconnect parts of the grid from each other that you don't have this cascading blackout effect. That you have the potential for now with these very. High voltage transmission notes. -- -- -- -- Hi John B Welling up these former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission did a great -- pleasure to speak with the although lots. I'm sure guys should -- a little concerned now and I guess that's good we should be concerned. I think it's good for -- to be concerned until we get some things done to protect yourself. -- who are not thank you very much for being -- tonight thank you know I all right double break and we'll be back here it's 830 shades. At W wildcat.