Money that was being appropriated for use towards protecting California power plants from terror attacks is reportedly being held hostage as a consequence of a battle between the California Public Utilities Commission and state legislators over the appropriation of $5 million in legal fees stemming from a corruption investigation into the agency.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, $5 million from the CPUC’s budget was cut this year over rage that regulators had hired outside lawyers as federal and state investigators probed allegations of influence by public officials and improper deal-making with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and other utilities, which allegedly was used to cut secret deals with current and former officials.
Although legislators did not specify where the budget cuts had to be made, last week the agency reportedly took it upon itself to take part of the money from the antiterrorism budget.
The legislation was prompted by an April 2013 incident where gunfire knocked out 17 transformers and inflicted $15.4 million in damage to PG&E’s Metcalf substation near San Jose, which resulted in calls for the state’s power providers to draw up security plans to harden the electrical grid against potential future saboteurs.
The Chronicle notes that although the attack was not a result of terrorism, it raised concerns that in the future such vulnerabilities in the system could be exposed in the power grid allowing for outside forces to infiltrate and attack.
Former Nightline host Ted Koppel has written a new book, Lights Out, about the consequences of a terror attack or cyberattack on the nation’s power grid. If the 2013 attack on the Silicon Valley substation had been successful–and it very nearly was–it could have cut power to Silicon Valley for months, crippling the tech industry and America’s economy as a whole.