The (Raleigh, NC) News & Observer, McClatchy’s well-regarded North Carolina regional newspaper, recently reported that, “Thousands of people in Moore County, NC are without power after vandalism of electrical substations.” The article detailed how two Duke Energy
electric system substations were damaged by gunfire sometime during Saturday evening. On Monday, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper called the attack a "criminal act" in a press conference.
Moore County (North Carolina) Sheriff Ronnie Field said the person who orchestrated the shooting on the North Carolina power stations, leaving nearly an entire county without electricity for a second straight day, "knew exactly" how to disable the stations, Fox News reported on Monday.
Governor Cooper and the reporters at the Raleigh News & Observer seem to be approaching this matter with the same mindset that establishment media almost always applies to acts of terror – it’s a law enforcement, criminal justice matter, not a national security threat.
We think they have it wrong on this – vandalism is spray painting your school team name on the town water tower – and to our way of thinking about what differentiates “vandalism” from terrorism, this was no prank or act of mindless sociopathy.
Calling the destruction by gunfire of two electric system substations “vandalism” is a lot like calling the Russian bombing of Ukraine’s electric power grid “vandalism” rather than what it was – an attack intended to terrorize an enemy civilian population and interrupt the country’s civil society and military organization.
And the attack on the electrical grid in North Carolina did both.
Moore County — which also includes the town of Southern Pines — lies just west of Fort Bragg. Commands across the installation told the Army Times that they were working feverishly to support their personnel who were impacted.
An unknown number of soldiers have been affected by the outage, which created a last-second childcare crisis and poses other risks such as food spoilage in refrigerators without electric power and water outages for rural residents whose homes rely on electric-pump wells.
Sgt. Maj. Alex Licea, an XVII Airborne Corps spokesperson, the unit which oversees the installation and the majority of Fort Bragg troops, told The Army Times, “soldiers and civilian personnel who reside in Moore County and work for the XVIII Airborne Corps and its subordinate units were authorized late report call…”.
And yesterday marked the second day Moore County schools will be closed. About 38,000 households were still without power as the community suffers from freezing nighttime temperatures. The outage has also rendered wastewater pumps in the area out of order, and traffic lights are also out, with numerous accidents reported.
Emergency shelters have been opened to the public with facilities for charging mobile devices, but no announcement has been made regarding charging facilities for personal electric vehicles.
However, while much of the rhetoric coming from elected officials and local law enforcement appears intended to keep the public thinking of these attacks as “vandalism” and a local law enforcement matter, in January, a bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security, obtained by CBS News, warned that domestic violent extremists "have developed credible, specific plans to attack electricity infrastructure since at least 2020, identifying the electric grid as a particularly attractive target." But DHS has not issued any statement connecting the current situation in Moore County to extremism.
The U.S. has roughly 55,000 substations. Earlier this year "60 Minutes" reported on how vulnerable they often are.
"There's a very few number of substations you need to take out in the entire United States to knock out the entire grid," Jon Wellinghoff, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told "60 Minutes" correspondent BIll Whitaker.
Our friends at the Center for Security Policy (CSP) have spent years warning elected officials and policymakers about the vulnerability of our power grid and electric distribution infrastructure.
As CSP Executive Vice President Tommy Waller explained in a recent article, these attacks happen much more frequently than most people realize.
Physical attacks on the U.S. grid occur at a frequency of more than one per week according to Michael Mabee, who tracks data on electric outages reported to the Department of Energy (DOE).
According to Mabee’s analysis of DOE data, from January 1, 2010, through August 2022, there have been at least 919 physical attacks on the U.S. grid and the rate of attacks is increasing.
In some cases, these acts are not terrorism but criminal and involve the theft of copper.
In other cases, such as the well-documented 2013 attack in on the Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Metcalf substation in San Jose – the attackers did not want to steal copper but rather sabotage the grid, causing costly, life-threatening blackouts. Despite promises from PG&E to improve security, the same substation was breached again in 2014.
So far there have been no credible claims of responsibility for the North Carolina attack, which does not appear to have theft as its motive, leaving terrorism as the most likely motive, and certainly the result. While much of the report focuses on cyber threats to the electric grid, we urge CHQ readers and friends to read the Center for Security Policy February 2022 report warning of a potential increase in national security threats to critical infrastructure and to then contact your federal and state legislators to demand that immediate steps be taken to harden the American energy grid against attacks similar to the one just perpetrated in North Carolina.
Moore County North Carolina
electrical substation destruction
Moore County Schools closed
Dept of Homeland Security
Electric Grid targeting
theft of copper