A power grid attack occurred in Arizona last week, yet it barely caused a flutter in the 24/7 news cycle. If the makeshift bomb had functioned as designed, more than 30,000 residents would have been in the dark, sent back to a life similar to the 1800s.
The bomb was placed near a 50,000-gallon diesel fuel tank at a “critical transformer substation” near a border town south of Tucson. The same area has been making national headlines during the past several weeks over the massive influx of young illegal immigrants pouring into America and surrendering themselves to US Border Patrol agents.
The bomb designed to take down at least a portion of the Arizona power grid failed to create the havoc envisioned, but clearly illustrates once again how vulnerable the nation’s electrical grid has truly become. The homemade bomb could have fit inside the palm of your hand, according to Arizona investigators. It was placed under a tank and ignited, but did not explode.
The Arizona attack is similar to an incident that occurred at a Tennessee facility and a California power grid substation last year.
National security experts and everyday Americans have asked the same question: “Was this terrorism and merely a dress rehearsal for a larger event to come later?”
“They were able to gain access to the facility illegally,” Nogales Police Lt. Carlos Jimenez told the media. “They had some working knowledge of what that tank is or how it works.”
UniSource Energy Services representative Joe Salkowski said that on the morning of June 11, an employee “discovered that a hole had been cut in the fence of a substation that serves Nogales.”
“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,” Salkowski told The Blaze. “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.”
Story continues below video
News reports after the power grid substation attack indicated that a “large explosion” had occurred at the Arizona facility, but 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.
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.
Republican Arizona Representative Trent Franks said Americans should be concerned. He is one of the driving forces behind the Shield Act, a bill aimed at bolstering the power grid.
“It’s unclear whether these are sophisticated attacks or not,” he said, “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.”
As previously reported by Off The Grid News, a TVA Watts Bar Nuclear Plant security guard was involved in a 2 a.m. shootout with an armed suspect in March 2013. 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.
The following month, an attack on a California electric substation also took place. 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.
It took months for information about the California and Tennessee power grid attacks to garner national headlines.
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. In February, security cameras at the Arizona power substation spotted “target shooters” near the facility. The sighting caused alarm and prompted a phone call to police from one of the few employees on the premises daily. When the law enforcement officers arrived, the suspicious people had left.
Do you believe a widespread blackout due to terrorism is inevitable? Tell us in the comments section below.