A power grid attack occurred in Arizona last week, but information about the possible terrorism incident went largely unnoticed by nationwide news media. If the homemade bomb had functioned properly, more than 30,000 residents in the Nogales area would have been left without power.
A 50,000-gallon diesel fuel tank at a “critical transformer substation” near a border town south of Tucson had a homemade bomb placed beneath it, according to preliminary law enforcement reports. The bomb designed to take down at least a portion of the Arizona power grid failed to create the destruction likely envisioned by the individual or individuals involved in the Nogales substation attack.The homemade bomb could have fit inside the palm of your hand, according to Arizona investigators. The device was geared to ignite one of the diesel fuel storage tanks that back up the power generators at the Arizona substation.
The electrical grid substation is just a few miles from the Mexican border and provides power to the region around Nogales. Transmission cable lines link the Nogales substation to a larger facility in Tucson. Had the suspect or suspects realized that diesel has a high flash point and is difficult to ignite, they likely would have crafted a more substantial bomb to succeed in their planned destruction.
News reports after the power grid substation attack last week indicated that a “large explosion” had occurred at the Arizona facility, but UniSource Energy Services spokesman Jie Salkowski said the incident was small in nature. The Nogales facility is owned by UniSource Energy, a subsidiary of UNS Energy based out of Tucson.
Salkowski had this to say about the Arizona power grid attack during an interview with The Blaze:
“One the morning of June 11, an employee discovered that a hole had been cut in the fence of a substation that serves Nogales, Arizona and that the remains of a crude incendiary device was found at the base of a diesel fuel tank. The device caused a small, temporary fuel leak and blackened a small section of the surface of the tank, but did not cause any serious damage to the fuel tank. We are currently reviewing security in place at that facility as well as others in the area in hopes of identifying potential upgrades or anything that could be done to prevent similar incidents in the future.”
The Arizona power grid attack is similar to events which occurred at both a Tennessee energy acility and a California power grid substation in 2013. A TVA Watts Bar Nuclear Plant security guard was involved in a 2 a.m. shootout with an armed suspect last March. The guard was unable to catch the gunman who had somehow gotten inside the nuclear plant. TVA spokesperson Jim Hopson said the subject traveled up to the plant on a boat and walked onto the property.
An attack on a California electric substation also took place the following month. Unknown suspects entered the Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Metcalf substation in South San Jose, California, around 1 a.m. through manholes. The intruders cut a number of fiber optic cables, which knocked out landline service, some local 911 local service and cell phone service in the area. The suspect or suspects then used a high-powered rifle or rifles to fire 100 rounds into the transformers in the facility. This caused cooling oil to leak out of the transformers, which made the devices overheat.
After the San Jose, California power grid substation attack, Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Bob Stump and Commissioner Bob Burns drafted a letter to the state utility agency asking them to make security changes at the facility. “The incident in Nogales is a troubling development that highlights the pressing need to focus our state and nation’s attention and resources to increasing utility security at all levels,” Stump said after the failed bombing attempt.
The FBI and ATF are currently investigating the Arizona power grid attack and attempting to determine if the incident is related to the Tennessee and California events.
Republican Arizona Representative Trent Franks in one of the driving forces behind both CIPA and the Shield Act. The legislation which aims at bolstering the power grid, has been stalled in Congress, despite bi-partisan support.
Representative Franks had this to say about the Nogales, Arizona substation attack:
“It’s unclear whether these are sophisticated attacks or not, but they illustrate the growing awareness of America’s vulnerability related to the grid. It seems only a matter of time before more sophisticated and perhaps more malevolent enemies seek to exploit this vulnerability.”
The Shield Act, along with a related bill, CIPA, are currently awaiting vetting by a House of Representatives subcommittee.
Excerpt from CIPA:
“The Department of Homeland Security has the specific responsibility to secure the key resources and critical infrastructure in the United States, to include power production, generation and distribution systems. Yet, eleven years after this job description was enacted our nation’s most critical infrastructure – and the systems that more than 300 Million Americans depend upon every day for basic activities – are still very vulnerable to large scale blackouts.”
Do you think the Arizona power grid attack and the previous ones on California and Tennessee are acts of terrorism?