States To Bump Up Electrical Grid Protections Amid Attacks

Lawmakers in some states are working to increase security around their electrical stations in order to avoid another of the attacks that the U.S. power grid has been subjected to by mostly unknown assailants.

North Carolina is one of the states to take the step as Rep. Ben Moss (R-NC) introduced a bill to strengthen the security around electrical facilities in the state. For Moss, who said that his hometown has been reduced to “a ghost town” in light of the attack, the bill should be a priority.

In the most significant outage, two substations were attacked with gunfire in December, leaving over 45,000 residents in Moore County without power.

The North Carolina bill seeks to put round-the-clock security at substations across the state. Security improvements would be tailored to a specific site and the level of security it already has. For example, the state would have to install gates and surveillance cameras at ungated facilities that do not have video surveillance. In contrast, the ones that are already gated and have video surveillance can have those steps skipped.

South Carolina lawmakers also introduced a bill that seeks to deter assailants from damaging the state’s infrastructure. The bill would see the penalty for the crime of causing damage up to $25,000 rise above the current maximum sentence of ten years to up to 20 years. If anyone dies or suffers damaged health as a result of an outage after an attack, the perpetrator would spend up to 25 years in prison.

South Carolina is also at the top of states who have suffered the coordinated attacks the most. Last year alone, it suffered up to 12 separate attacks. The Pacific Northwest is not left out in the attacks on electrical facilities, as 15 physical attacks were reported in Washington and Oregon last year.

The motives for the attacks were completely unknown at some point. But after two suspects were arrested in Washington for damaging four substations on Christmas Day, it became clear that some of these attacks might have been used to aid or mask robberies.

While there are varying suggestions that the attacks are tools for both sides of the political spectrum, motives are yet to be established.