North Carolina State House introduces bill to secure electrical substations in wake of attacks

House Bill 21 was introduced last week and calls for increased security at substations.
A bill was drawn up after two separate incidents have threatened the state's power grid.
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 7:07 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - On Friday the FBI announced $25,000 rewards to anyone who can help agents track down, arrest and convict individuals who shot up North Carolina electrical substations.

Two separate incidents have happened here in recent weeks.

The first was in Moore County, near the Pinehurst area, in early December. Someone fired shots at two Duke Energy substations about 10 miles apart. The attack cut power to 40,000 customers, many of whom were out for several days.

“Unlike most disaster situations whether it be a hurricane or otherwise, there’s an opportunity to prepare,” WBTV reporter Ron Lee said while covering the outage. “In this case there was no warning, no time to get supplies. But now, there’s plenty of time to deal with the aftermath.”

The second attack was in Randolph County, about an hour and a half northeast of Charlotte, in mid-January.

Energy United was the utility company hit in this incident, but fortunately no widespread outages occurred.

Now though, two months removed from the case in Moore County, no arrests have been made and still no suspects named.

The two incidents serve as reminders that parts of our critical infrastructure are vulnerable, and it has the attention of state lawmakers.

Related: Analyzing power grid safety after substation attack in Moore County

House Bill 21 was introduced last week, and is made up of two simple sentences, which read as follows:

Public utilities shall:

(1) Provide security systems at substations to protect against vandalism and other security threats.

(2) Continuously operate the security systems 24 hours a day.

Representative Ben Moss, a Republican from Moore County, is the sponsor of the bill.

“It’s a very simple piece of legislation, and it basically just calls for everyone to come to the table,” Moss said. “We are waiting on the federal government to hand down their regulations or requirements, but we need to be in a position to where if we need more, we’re going to work with our energy providers.”

Funding the necessary security though could be costly, and is proving to be a difficult topic for lawmakers to address.

“That’s the challenging part, because the last thing I would like to see would be for the consumer to have a rate increase or have a portion in paying for this security,” Moss said.

“Find different avenues, find cost effective, affordable ways that we can better secure these grids with,” he continued. “The modern technology we currently have between cameras, noise detectors, motion detectors, lighting. There’s a lot of different things that you can do to make a certain site more secure than what it may be currently.”

Lawmakers haven’t been alone in searching for solutions though, as the power companies themselves have played a role.

“Every one of them have been excellent to work with so far,” Moss said. “They’re just wanting to be able to come to the table and share and finding solutions for these issues.”

Despite the measures being pursued now, Moss said it’s frustrating that the state had to reach this point for something to be done.

“I’m pretty frustrated now, especially when it affected my district personally, and I know that there’s probably other people who may not think this could happen to their district within the state, but no one is immune to this,” he said. “We see it nationwide now. We’ve seen several occurrences in the state of North Carolina, so we need to all work together to be proactive.”

WBTV will continue to track the bill’s progress and any other developments in the two cases.

Related: Gunfire damages North Carolina substation, no outage caused