NC governor says substation attack a 'serious, intentional crime,' FBI investigating

Dec. 5, 2022
Duke Energy said the utility company was able to restore power to about 7,000 customers by Sunday night but it may take longer for the majority of customers as the company tries to replace equipment “that is a little more complex to complete.”

The attack on electrical substations in Moore County, N.C. that left thousands without power drew the attention of federal and state officials.

Gov. Roy Cooper said the attack on the two substations on Saturday night was a “serious, intentional crime.” In a statement posted to Twitter on Sunday, he said he expected federal and state authorities investigating the incident to “bring those responsible to justice.”

Cooper’s office said he would provide an update to reporters on Monday afternoon after a receiving a briefing from emergency management and law enforcement officials, as well as representatives from Duke Energy, according to an updated copy of his schedule released by his office.

Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said Sunday that the power outages began after 7 p.m. and proceeded to spread across central and southern Moore County. As of midday Monday, more than 33,600 homes and businesses remained without power, The News & Observer reported.

A number of media outlets reported the outage was due to a gun attack on the substations. Some accidents happened because traffic lights were out, schools were closed and one hospital had to switch to a generator for power. 

Jeff Brooks, a spokesperson for Duke Energy, said Monday morning the utility company was able to restore power to about 7,000 customers by Sunday night, but that it may take until as long as Thursday to restore power to the majority of customers, as the company tries to replace equipment “that is a little more complex to complete.”

Reactions, updates from NC officials

Officials continued on Monday to provide updates and issue statements on the attack on the substations.

“Violence of any kind is unacceptable, and law enforcement is absolutely dedicated to getting to the bottom of what happened in Moore County,” N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein said in a statement.

Laura Brewer, a spokesperson for Stein, said his office has been in contact with Duke Energy and law enforcement to receive regular updates. Brewer also noted that since the county has declared a state of emergency, the state’s price gouging law is in effect.

“Our office will review any complaints we receive to ensure that people are not being taken advantage of during this time,” Brewer said in an email.

Shelley Lynch, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Charlotte Division, confirmed to McClatchy on Monday that the Charlotte office was investigating the attack on the substations.

“We are in regular contact with local law enforcement and private sector partners. Due to the ongoing investigation, the FBI has no additional comment,” Lynch said.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, who ran for reelection this year in a district that covers Moore County, thanked Fields and local law enforcement, as well as the State Bureau of Investigation and FBI, for their quick response to the incident. On his website, Hudson’s office provided an update with resources, including information about a shelter at the Moore County Sports Complex.

State Rep. Ben Moss, a Republican from Montgomery County who also ran for reelection in a House district that includes Moore County, said the attack was “reprehensible,” adding that the “responsible party needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.”

“Moore County is and will continue to be a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family, and this criminal act will not change that,” Moss said in a post on Facebook.

In an email, Moss added: “Moving forward, we must have a very serious conversation about securing not only our electric infrastructure, but all other utilities, as well.”

Congressional attention

In recent years, cyber attacks on utilities and other public services have drawn plenty of attention, but state and federal officials have been worried about physical attacks too.

An attack on a substation near San Jose in 2013 prompted a congressional hearing about power grid vulnerabilities. Shooters with an assault rifle fired 150 rounds into the Pacific Gas and Electric substation, CNN reported.

PG&E avoided disruptions by rerouting power, but the repairs took nearly a month.

Later that year, an Arkansas man set fire to a substation, pulled down a power line and damaged an electric tower in a series of attacks in the central part of the state that temporarily left 9,000 people without power. Federal officials said the attacks caused more than $4.5 million in damages.

Jason Woodring, 46, pleaded guilty to federal charges and received a 15-year sentence. He told a judge he saw it as a way to cause an emergency that would bring people together, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

For more North Carolina government and politics news, subscribe to the Under the Dome politics newsletter from The News & Observer and the NC Insider and follow our weekly Under the Dome podcast at or wherever you get your podcasts.

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