Gunfire reported near a South Carolina power substation is prompting authorities to investigate whether there’s a connection to an attack in North Carolina over the weekend.
While the Moore County, NC attack, taking out two substations and leaving around 40k people without electricity for several days, has gained national attention, it’s not the first such attack this year.
The Moore County attack, in which two substations were damaged by gunfire and the leader of a local right-wing extremist group was questioned, gained significant attention, perhaps because of the anti-LGBTQ group’s posts about stopping a drag show from taking place the same night, or perhaps because of the number of people impacted.
However, at this time, the perpetrator has not been identified.
In fact, this incident followed another in North Carolina, a few weeks earlier in Jones County, hours away.
The damage there took only hours to repair and was also labeled as intentional vandalism; and is being investigated by local police with help from the State Board of Investigation.
Earlier in the year, there were additional reports of attacks and at least one failed plot on the electric grid in at least three other states.
Homeland Security had already warned in January that they had intelligence suggesting there could be coordinated destruction of power infrastructure by domestic extremists and that plotting of such attacks had been underway since at least 2020.
“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a warning that domestic extremists have been developing plans to attack U.S. electric power infrastructure,” reports Power Grid International:
“DVEs have developed credible, specific plans to attack electricity infrastructure since at least 2020, identifying the electric grid as a particularly attractive target given its interdependency with other infrastructure sectors,” the bulletin reportedly said.”
A February bulletin from Justice Department shared that three men had pleaded guilty to participating in a plot to carry out such attacks across the country:
“These three defendants admitted to engaging in a disturbing plot, in furtherance of white supremacist ideology, to attack energy facilities in order to damage the economy and stoke division in our country,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen.
The bulletin further described the group’s intent to each target substations in a different region, their possession of “suicide necklaces” containing fentanyl they could ingest if they were caught, and their hope that the plot would cause devastation and perhaps bring on a new Great Depression.
KOIN is reporting that there have been additional successful attacks on the power grid in Washington and Oregon earlier this year, including incidents in which, like the Moore County case, suspects apparently fired rifles at the equipment, and other incidents involving arson, hand tools, and even thrown objects.
The Jones County incident in North Carolina, in November, also involved damage that caused transformers to leak, although the power company involved, the Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative, told the News & Observer they won’t be answering any questions about how the damage was done until law enforcement carrying out its investigation advises them to do so.
A new report from WLTX indicates that the latest attack has raised the alert level — while Duke Energy has released a statement saying there are no known injuries or property damage, a report of gunfire near the Wateree Hydro Station Wednesday evening has prompted an investigation and contact with the FBI.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has warned of increased incidents of right-wing domestic terrorism since he was appointed last year.
Power companies are paying attention, though they may still struggle to enact adequate security measures that could prevent damage to equipment from long-range gunfire.