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US: Physical Attacks on Power Substations in Multiple States—Report

Outages could last days after shootings at substations

  Outages could last days after shootings at substations CARTHAGE, N.C. (AP) — Two power substations in a North Carolina county were damaged by gunfire in what is being investigated as a criminal act, causing damage that could take days to repair and leaving tens of thousands of people without electricity, authorities said Sunday. In response to ongoing outages, which began just after 7 p.m. Saturday across Moore County, officials announced a state of emergency that included a curfew from 9 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday. Also, county schools will be closed Monday.

There have been physical attacks on power substations in multiple states in recent months, according to a new report.

In an aerial view, a Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) electrical substation is visible in front of the city skyline on January 26, 2022 in San Francisco, California. © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images In an aerial view, a Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) electrical substation is visible in front of the city skyline on January 26, 2022 in San Francisco, California.

About 35,000 people in North Carolina's Moore County remain without power on Wednesday after the substations were damaged in what authorities described as a "targeted" attack at the weekend.

Authorities said the outages began on Saturday after one or more people drove up to the substations, breached the gates and opened fire on them. Moore County Chief Deputy Richard Maness told Newsweek on Tuesday that the investigation remains ongoing.

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Now NewsNation has reported that a memo from federal law enforcement revealed similar attacks have taken place in other states.

"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," the memo says in part.

"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 FBI told NewsNation that it is too early to know the motive for the attack that caused widespread outages in Moore County, but there have been similar cases in North Carolina and other states in recent months. The bureau has been contacted for further comment.

EXPLAINER: US power grid has long faced terror threat

  EXPLAINER: US power grid has long faced terror threat WASHINGTON (AP) — Investigators believe a shooting that damaged power substations in North Carolina was a crime. What they haven't named yet is a suspect or a motive. Whatever the reason, the shooting serves as a reminder of why experts have stressed the need to secure the U.S. power grid. Authorities have warned that the nation's electricity infrastructure could be vulnerable targets for domestic terrorists. Tens of thousands of people lost their electricity over the weekend after one or more people opened fire on two Duke Energy substations in Moore County, which is roughly 60 miles southwest of Raleigh. Nobody has been charged in the shooting as of Monday.

Ahead of November 8's midterm elections, Newsweek documented the digital dissemination of a wide array of plots, manuals and manifestos by domestic extremists seeking to incite acts of sabotage against energy sites, especially electricity substations, across the U.S. and examples of such attacks.

Those included an act of vandalism that caused "fairly significant" damage at a transformer servicing the Keystone XL pipeline in South Dakota and a shooting that caused a chemical spill at a Pacific Gas and Electric site in California in July.

In March, thousands of customers in southern Oklahoma were reportedly left without power after bullets riddled a transformer site, causing a "major oil leak."

On November 11, more than 12,000 people lost power in North Carolina's Jones County after a substation owned by Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative was damaged by criminal vandalism. The vandals damaged transformers and caused them to leak coolant oil, the company said. The investigation into that incident is ongoing, and no suspects have been identified or arrested.

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In February, three men pleaded guilty to planning to recruit followers to attack substations with powerful rifles.

"The defendants believed their plan would cost the government millions of dollars and cause unrest for Americans in the region," the Department of Justice said in a news release. "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 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a bulletin on November 30, warning that lone offenders and small groups "motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and/or personal grievances continue to pose a persistent and lethal threat."

The bulletin said that targets of potential violence include "public gatherings, faith-based institutions, the LGBTQ community, schools, racial and religious minorities, government facilities and personnel, U.S. critical infrastructure, the media, and perceived ideological opponents."

Newsweek has contacted the DHS for further comment.

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  • Emily Rainey, Jan. 6 Protester, Questioned Over North Carolina Power Outage
  • As Gas Prices Reshape Midterms, U.S. Extremists Plot to Attack Energy Sites

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