Fines for Not Securing ‘Sniper’ Substation

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 @ 02:09 PM gHale

After failing to fix security problems at a San Jose power substation exposed by a 2013 sniper attack, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is now facing a $50,000 fine.

PG&E failed to safely maintain its Metcalf substation, allowing burglars to breach its fence and steal $40,000 worth of equipment more than a year after someone shot up the site, according to the California Public Utilities Commission.

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The commission’s safety and enforcement division found numerous gaps in security at the substation, including a lack of training for supervisors and on-site personnel.

Among other problems, security guards failed to respond to burglar alarms while the August 2014 break-in was in progress, the commission said.

After the burglary in August, PG&E said it conducted an analysis to identify what it could do to prevent a recurrence. It said all Metcalf upgrades identified in the investigation are complete.

The gaps in security first came to light April 16, 2013, when the substation fell under attack by gunfire. There were no injuries, but there was $15 million in damage to 17 transformers. It also shook up an industry worried about terrorism.

The utilities commission said that attack exposed security weaknesses that PG&E should have addressed.

Despite the earlier scare, the burglary the night of Aug. 26, 2014, didn’t come to the attention of PG&E security officials until the next morning, the commission said.

Security guards on duty at the substation either ignored or didn’t hear alarms as burglars stole construction equipment from the substation and an adjacent yard, the state agency said.

“This was the second time, and even though the alarms went off, PG&E security didn’t know that it happened,” said Constance Gordon, spokeswoman for the utilities commission. “They had time after the previous breach to improve the security, but they didn’t.”

In a statement, PG&E said it replaced its third-party guard contractor since the burglary, improved lighting and camera systems at Metcalf, and increased the number of security officers at the substation.

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