While two Duke Energy substations in Moore County, North Carolina were damaged by gunfire on Saturday, December 4th, taking out power to more than 40,000 people, it wasn’t the first and we are sad to say … it probably won’t be the last. Since then, there have been several others and we are also learning about others before the attack in Moore County.
Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reported that the grid in Oregon and Washington state has been attacked at least six times since mid-November, affecting customers of Portland General Electric, the Bonneville Power Administration, Cowlitz County Public Utility District, and Puget Sound Energy. OPB said these same utilities received a memo from the FBI and Oregon’s Titan Fusion Center, which investigates terrorism, just days before Duke’s substations were attacked.
Also in November, the Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative (CCEC) located In Jones County, North Carolina was attacked and about 12,000 customers lost power for about 2 hours. The vandals damaged transformers in one of their substations resulting in leakage of coolant oil inside the transformer. CCEC crews worked quickly to stop the flow of coolant and contain it within the property. With the assistance of an environmental remediation contractor, CCEC has taken steps to ensure that the damage to the transformers does not negatively impact the environment or the public.
It is becoming increasingly likely that domestic terrorists seeking to damage critical infrastructure in the U.S. and cause chaos are behind these attacks. Attacking these substations can be considered an attack on the electrical grid – a serious criminal act and could result in both state and federal prison time.
On November 30, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued its 7th National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin (NTAS) indicating that the threat of terrorism in the U.S. remains heightened. The bulletin, which remains in effect until May 24, 2023, replaced a previous NTAS advisory that essentially said the same thing.
In February Christopher Cook, Jonathan Frost, and Jackson Sawall pleaded guilty to crimes related to conspiring to attack the power grids throughout the United States in the winter of 2019 – 2020. Each was assigned a substation in a different region of the United States. Their plan was to attack the substations, or power grids, with powerful rifles. The defendants believed their plan would cost the government millions of dollars and cause unrest for Americans in the region.
They had conversations about how the possibility of the power being out for many months could cause war, even a race war, and induce the next Great Depression. The men, who have not been sentenced yet, could spend up to 15 years in prison for the attempted attack.
Photo Credit: Dennis Trevisan from Pixabay