An arrest in Arkansas may demonstrate just how vulnerable the US power grid is to sabotage, and the involvement of the FBI and a Joint Terrorism Taskforce shows that federal officials are concerned.
Jason Woodring was arrested last week at his home in Jacksonville, Arkansas, and charged with destruction of an energy facility. An Arkansas TV station reported that Woodring was caught after neighbors heard an explosion in his yard and complained to authorities.
Woodring is suspected of carrying out three attacks on power lines and substations in Central Arkansas just northeast of Little Rock. Woodring confessed guilt in the attacks to federal agents but did not elaborate.
‘Lives At Risk’
“The power grid attacks had the potential to put many lives at risk,” US Attorney Christopher Thyer told the media. “When we depend on electrical power not only for comfort and convenience, but also for safety, security and life sustaining equipment, not knowing where the next attack would occur held the public hostage to an unknown attacker.”
The incidents in question were fairly low tech and unsophisticated attacks and nearly successful. Woodring’s alleged sabotage consisted of three incidents:
- An attempt to hook a cable to a 100-foot transmission tower and a train on Aug. 21. The idea here was apparently to use the train to pull down the tower.
- A fire at an Entergy substation near Cabot, Arkansas, on Sept. 29. Whoever set the fire wrote the words “you should have expected us” on a metal panel near the substation.
- Using a tractor to knock down utility poles and bring down a power line in Jacksonville, Arkansas, on Oct. 6. Forbes contributor William Pentland said this attack knocked out power to over 10,000 customers.
No motive for Jason Woodring’s alleged sabotage has been provided and the FBI hasn’t stated whether he was acting alone or part of an organized group. His activities might give other would-be saboteurs and troublemakers ideas.
Grid is Vulnerable to Sabotage
“While the electric power industry has expressed concerns about cybersecurity, the recent spate of attacks in Arkansas suggest that the electric power grid is equally if not more vulnerable to physical acts of sabotage,” Pentland wrote.
In other words we should have expected such an act of sabotage to occur sooner or later. The miracle is that it didn’t occur earlier or affect more people.
Particularly bothersome is how vulnerable the grid is to low tech sabotage – with someone using tractors to knock down power lines. There are many who could commit such crimes.
How To Protect Your Family and Business
The Arkansas sabotage is only the latest example of the vulnerability of America’s power grid. Utilities and the US, Mexican and Canadian governments are so worried about grid sabotage that in mid-November they will actually hold a massive preparedness drill to simulate the downing of the grid.
Families, households and small businesses need to prepare for grid vulnerability, as well – such as by exploring alternative energies.