Five Electrical Substations in Oregon and Washington Are Attacked Just Days After Two in North Carolina Were Targeted Causing Widespread Power Outages
December 8, 2022
The FBI said at least five power stations in the Pacific Northwest were targeted.
- The report arrives days after a significant outage caused by a targeted substation attack left Moore County, North Carolina without power
- The Department of Homeland Security warned earlier this year that domestic extremists have been developing plans to target the US power grid since 2020
- Yet more reports of gunfire this time near a South Carolina hydro station were reported Wednesday night
A PSE transformer was attacked in Portland, Oregon, last month, according to a recent federal memo.
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 federal law enforcement memo revealed that the Pacific Northwest substations have described attacks using 'handtools, arson, firearms, and metal chains possibly in response to an online call for attacks on critical infrastructure.'
'In recent attacks, criminal actors bypassed security fences by cutting the fence links, lighting nearby fires, shooting equipment from a distance or throwing objects over the fence and on to equipment,' read the memo.
Power stations in a number of US states have been threatened or targeted for attacks in recent weeks, prompting American law enforcement to warn citizens about a need to secure the power grid.
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.'
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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.
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