MOORE COUNTY, N.C. — It’s been about five months since an attack on two power substations left more than 40,000 people without power in Moore County on December 3, 2022. Forty-five days after those attacks, gunfire damaged a substation about 50 miles away in Randolph County.

What You Need To Know

  • Two Moore County lawmakers have proposed bills that address protecting infrastructure and punishing people who attack utilities and facilities 

  • The Department of Energy recently announced $38 million will be going toward modernizing and protecting the U.S. power grid

  • Duke Energy says it’s constantly working on evolving its security process and is conducting an assessment since the Moore County substation attacks

Neither the Moore nor Randolph County sheriff’s offices had any updates on the investigation as of May 1. There’s still $100,000, total, of rewards being offered for any information leading to a conviction in those cases.

Since the attacks, two lawmakers from Moore County have proposed bills that both regard the power infrastructure In North Carolina.

Republican Rep. Ben Moss proposed House Bill 21: The Energy Security Act of 2023. The language of the bill itself is two lines, proposing 24/7 security at energy infrastructures in our state.

“At the beginning of session, I presented a bill, and it was simple in nature,” Moss explained. “I just wanted to bring everyone to the table: energy providers, lawmakers, everyone to take a look at our security when it pertains to substations and try to make sure that maybe an event like this will not happen again.”

Moore County Sen. Tom McInnis also proposed a bill regarding energy infrastructure, titled Protect Critical Infrastructure. If passed, the bill would increase the punishment for property crimes committed against utilities and energy infrastructure, including facilities involved in the transmission of telephone, broadband or cable telecommunications services.

“Increasing penalties is something that we should be able to attain pretty easily, but finding a way of helping to secure those substations, my thoughts were reaction time,” Moss said. “[Having] a way to notify law enforcement if a situation was going on at a certain location so that they could get there quicker and hopefully catch whoever would commit such a crime.”

Both bills are still awaiting more hearings and discussion in the North Carolina General Assembly.

Spectrum News 1 reached out to McInnis to discuss the Protect Critical Infrastructure bill, but we did not hear back.

On a national level, the Department of Energy is also taking action to protect the U.S. power grid.

On April 25, the DOE announced $38 million to modernize the U.S. electricity grid. The money includes funding for infrastructure and cybersecurity protections.

“I find if you work together, you can find the solutions a lot quicker,” Moss said.

Meanwhile, energy companies are individually working to increase protections and security of their infrastructure.

Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks said, “We've been working to conduct an assessment since the Moore County event, look at many aspects of our security, and we're always evolving that security strategy.”

“We’re continuing to work with local law enforcement and federal agents on their investigations to bring those responsible to justice there,” he said.

Brooks says Duke Energy maintains more than 100,000 miles of power lines with thousands of substations across their system.

“We can do everything we can to make them difficult to access, to prevent, you know, as much as we can. But no matter what you do, you can't completely eliminate the potential risk of some type of an impact,” Brooks explained.

“We take steps, multi-layered steps, that includes physical protection monitoring to where we can monitor things that are happening on our system. If we see abnormalities, we can take steps,” Brooks said. “We're increasingly using smart technologies that can actually reroute power to other lines and other places to get customers back up. All of those are sort of this resiliency strategy that we're approaching.”

The Department of Energy says there’s been a 79% increase in power disturbances across the nation, comparing 2022 to 2021.

Power companies are required to report power disturbances to the DOE, and they choose how to categorize the incidents.

Last year, they cited 163 reported incidents of actual physical attack, vandalism, suspicious activity or sabotage. That's compared to 91 in 2021. And the 96 the year prior.

There have been no updates, prosecutions or arrests since the substation attacks in Moore and Randolph Counties, according to the sheriff’s offices there.