Five Electricity Substations in Oregon
by Sophie Mann
The Department of Homeland Security warned earlier this year that domestic extremists
have been developing plans to target the US power grid since 2020
At least five attacks at electricity substations in the Pacific Northwest have been reported to the FBI in recent weeks.
The incidents came to light via a federal memo following a deliberate attack last week in Moore County, North Carolina, that left tens of thousands of people without power for days as seasonal temperatures fall.
In Washington state and Oregon, spokespeople for several energy companies -- Puget Sound Energy, the Cowlitz County Public Utilities District and Bonneville Power Administration -- confirmed the attacks occurred in November.
A spokesperson for BPA, Douglas Johnson, said the company suffered a 'deliberate physical attack' at a Clackamas, Oregon substation over Thanksgiving and that fencing and equipment were damaged.
He added that the company is 'actively cooperating with the FBI on this incident and has encouraged other utilities throughout the region to increase their vigilance and report any suspicious or similar activity to law enforcement.'
He did not offer specific details about the damage to the substation's equipment, only that the cost of its repair would be passed on to customers of the public utility.
The FBI would not confirm or deny that it is investigating the attacks, though the companies said they are cooperating with a federal investigation.
Gerald Tracy, the media engagement program manager at Puget Sound Energy said that he was unable to 'comment on the incidents because they are both an ongoing investigation involving the FBI.'
Two PSE substations were attacked in late November, though it is unknown which ones or to what extent they were damaged.
And two Cowlitz County Public Utility District substations in Washington sustained vandalism in November. A spokesperson for Governor Jay Inslee said the office is 'aware of increased threats to our utilities and are monitoring threat activity in our support and coordination role with federal and local governments and individual utilities.'
In North Carolina, tens of thousands of homes and businesses in Moore County remained without power through Tuesday and schools will remain closed through Thursday.
Energy officials said they believe the power should be restored by midnight on Wednesday, pushing up the estimate from Thursday.
At their peak, the outages affected around 45,000 homes, causing residents to lose heat and schools to close. Duke Energy has now completed repairs and restored power to all but a fraction of those who lost electricity.
One person is known to have died at their home, which was without power at the time, but the cause of death has not yet been linked to the outage.
Gunfire on Saturday night caused significant damage to two substations. The FBI is now assisting with the investigation for which no motive has yet been identified.
The power went out over the weekend during the Downtown Divas drag show at the Sunrise Theater in Southern Pines about an hour into the performance. Prior to the show, a number of protesters and counter--protesters had gathered to demonstrate in front of the theatre.
Organizers of the drag show revealed that right--wing activists had tried to shut down the event for weeks leading up to it. In response to the threats, extra security was hired for the Saturday event.
Governor Cooper said on Monday that investigators are continuing to assess every possible motive in an attempt to find the perpetrators, including that the targeted attack may be tied to the drag show.
On Wednesday night, Duke Energy reported that it had been made aware of yet more gunshots that occurred near the Wateree Hydro Station in Kershaw County, South Carolina.
'No individuals were harmed. There are no outages reported. There is no known property damage at this time. We are working closely with the FBI on this issue,' read the statement in part.
The US Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis warned early this year that domestic extremists 'have developed credible, specific plans to attack electricity infrastructure since at least 2020.'
Though experts warn that it would be difficult to shut down a significant portion of the power grid, a the recent attack in North Carolina showcased how tough it can be for a community to make do without power for the better part of a week.
Energy experts have expressed the real need to secure the country's power grid, especially as domestic terrorist's become further emboldened to toy with the country's public utilities.
PacifiCorp Transimssion Network Diagram by PacifiCorp
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