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Ex-Federal Official Says San Jose PG&E Substation Attack Was Terrorism

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The scene of a shooting and oil spill at a San Jose PG&E substation on April 16, 2013. (CBS)

The scene of a shooting and oil spill at a San Jose PG&E substation on April 16, 2013. (CBS)

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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — The former head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission believes the attack on a PG&E substation in South San Jose last spring was not an act of vandalism, but instead a terrorist attack.

In April of last year, someone shot numerous rounds that damaged equipment at the Metcalf Road substation and also severed underground fiber optic cables nearby.

In an interview Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal, former FERC chief Jon Wellinghoff called the attack “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred.”

Wellinghoff told the newspaper he’s going public with his concerns because he believes national security is at risk and that thousands of electrical utility sites are poorly protected.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told reporters at the time the objective of the attack appeared to have been “shutting down the system.”

Original KPIX 5 Report on Substation Attack – April 16, 2013

The FBI says it does not think a terrorist organization carried out the gunfire attack on the substation and cutting of fiber optic cables. But a retired PG&E official reportedly told a security conference “This wasn’t an incident where Billy-Bob and Joe decided, after brewskis, to come in and shoot up a substation.”

The April attack knocked out 911 service to the area and authorities in charge of the state’s power grid issued an alert urging South Bay residents and businesses to conserve electricity.

One month later, a suspicious man was spotted in a field near the same substation before dawn. He was described as a white man dressed in black clothing who fled after being seen by a security guard.

The sheriff’s office dispatched eight units and set up a perimeter but was not able to locate him.

He did not appear to be a transient, and did not seem to be carrying anything with him, based on the security guard’s description, Deputy Kurtis Stenderup said.

“It’s very odd why a person would be there at 3 a.m.,” Stenderup said. “It’s pure speculation on why that person was there.”

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