PG&E fined $50,000 for security breakdown at power substation

Published 5:59 pm, Monday, August 31, 2015

State regulators levied a $50,000 fine against Pacific Gas and Electric Co. on Monday for failing to fix security problems at a San Jose power substation that were exposed by a 2013 sniper attack.

The California Public Utilities Commission said PG&E had 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 facility.

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.

PG&E representatives did not return phone calls seeking comment Monday.

The gaps in security were first identified on April 16, 2013, when the substation was attacked by gunfire. Nobody was wounded or killed, but $15 million in damage was caused to 17 transformers. It also shook up an industry worried about terrorism.

The utilities commission said that attack had exposed security weaknesses that PG&E should have dealt with.

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 that went off as the 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.”