Several U.S. states are taking steps to increase grid security in the wake of a series of seemingly coordinated attacks on their electrical substations.
Over the past year, four different states have fallen victim to such sabotage.
The most damage was done last month in Moore County, North Carolina. 45,000 residents were left without power after gun-wielding assailants attacked two separate substations.
Last year, neighboring South Carolina suffered at least a dozen attacks on various electrical substations.
On the West Coast, electrical facilities in Oregon and Washington were physically attacked on 15 separate occasions in 2022. All but two occurred in its final two months. A series of Christmas day attacks on four different substations left 15,000 utility customers in Puget Sound in the dark.
In response, all four states are beefing up grid security in the hopes of nipping this disturbing new trend in the bud.
In North Carolina, Rep. Ben Moss is proposing legislation to strengthen the security of the state's electrical grid. According to Moss, the December attacks turned his district into "a ghost town."
"When the power goes out," he continued, "you don’t have heat, don’t have food, can’t get fuel or some medications, the people are unsafe."
Moss's proposed legislation requires utility companies to provide 24-hour security at all electrical substations as well as mandating security improvements at substations that aren't gated or lack video surveillance.
Meanwhile, in neighboring South Carolina, local power companies themselves are demanding legislative action. South Carolina utilities want the state legislature to substantially increase the penalties for destroying electrical infrastructure.
In response, a bill proposed in the SC state senate would put the punishment for grid sabotage on a sliding scale, with more damage leading to more jail time. Damage exceeding $25,000 could mean up to 20 years in prison – twice the current 10-year maximum sentence. Potential jail time for damaging the state's electrical grid would increase to 25 years should anyone die or suffer from poor health as a result.
On the west coast, Washington's State Energy Office is eyeing updates to the state's grid security.
In Oregon, arrests have yet to be made for the Thanksgiving day attack on a Clackamas County substation. But the state's Public Utility Commission has teamed up with local power companies to explore ways of increasing grid security.
Nor has this disturbing spate of sabotage gone unnoticed in the nation's Capital.
Federal energy regulators are also looking at how to improve grid security. A report on how to stop future sabotage from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), which oversees the U.S. power grid, is expected by April.