The FBI is warning of additional attacks against power stations by suspected domestic terrorists after North Carolina’s power grid was shut down due to gun attacks on substations in Moore County.
The North Carolina attacks led to the disruption of power across the state for tens of thousands of people for several days straight.
Before the attack in North Carolina, the FBI reported several separate attacks against power stations last month in the Northwest region of the country.
And most recently, on December 7, several gunshots were reported near a power station in Ridgeway, South Carolina, stoking fears about coordinated attacks across the country by terrorists against power infrastructure.
A Duke Energy spokesperson said that there were no outages or property damage at the Wateree Hydro Station resulting from the incident.
Although a motive and suspect behind the North Carolina attack has yet to be identified, investigators are focusing on extremist activity online that appears to encourage such attacks.
In response, the FBI sent a memo to Washington law enforcement sources detailing the situation.
“Power companies in Oregon and Washington have reported physical attacks on substations, using hand tools, arson, firearms and metal chains possibly in response to an online call for attacks on critical infrastructure. In recent attacks, criminal actors bypassed security by cutting the fence links, lighting nearby fires, shooting equipment from a distance or throwing objects over the fence and onto equipment,” the memo read.
Puget Sound Energy told KING 5 about two incidents that occurred at their stations in November.
“We are aware of recent threats on power systems across the country and take these very seriously. We are monitoring our infrastructure and can confirm we have had two incidents occur in late November at two different substations. Both incidents are under investigation by the FBI,” a representative of the company stated.
In addition, a substation in Clackamas County, Oregon, was attacked on Thanksgiving morning, according to a spokesperson from the Bonneville Power Administration.
“It was deliberate — there’s no question that somebody meant to do it. It looked like they used something sharp to cut through a fence there that’s designed to keep people out.”
Thankfully, no power outage resulted from the attack.
David Terry, executive director of the National Association of State Energy Officials, said the electrical grid is an attractive target due to its vast size and vulnerability.
“State, federal (and) industry leaders have taken steps to protect critical nodes, but there remain substations in particular that we can’t protect infinitely, unfortunately,” Terry said.
Terry said building walls around power substations or adding armed guards could counter the threats.
“The second part is to be more resilient. So you see state energy, government energy directors around the country working with their utilities and the Department of Energy … to work on things like microgrids and backup power for mission-critical facilities like hospitals and nursing homes,” Terry explained.
Investigators believe that high-powered rifles were used in the North Carolina attack.
Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said the perpetrators “knew exactly what they were doing.”
Recovered at the scene were around two dozen shell casings from a high-powered rifles.
Officials say the bullets and brass shell casings can be put into the ATF ballistics database to generate leads in the case.
The sheriff is currently offering a $75,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of a person responsible for the crime.