RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A former federal official said he thinks states will have to “step up” when it comes to regulations in light of the attack on the substations in Moore County, as Gov. Roy Cooper called the attack “too easy.”
Gov. Cooper said this week he thinks the attack highlights the need to look at what needs to be done to harden critical infrastructure.
The attack last Saturday left more than 45,000 customers without power for several days. Duke Energy restored power to everyone affected by Wednesday evening.
“I know that there are a number of federal requirements that utilities have to abide by, but this seemed to be too easy,” Cooper said, calling the attack “malicious.”
He did not say what particular steps he thinks Duke Energy, in particular, should take to improve security at vulnerable substations.
“They’re in the middle of this investigation, and I certainly think we need to be guided by what happened here and how it happened,” Gov. Cooper said.
Jon Wellinghoff, the former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said the attack in Moore County appeared to be a “copycat” of an attack on substations in Metcalf, Calif., in 2013 during the time he served as chairman. He said images from the scene in Moore County indicate that similar parts were damaged, including those with the “highest level of vulnerability for the transformers” in the substations.
“That is all easily discoverable from what happened at Metcalf, and apparently these people looked that up and determined exactly what they needed to do and went and did it,” Wellinghoff said.
NewsNation reported this week that federal law enforcement officials warned about a potential infrastructure attack in August after a suspected white supremacist posted a file online showing the locations of power stations across North America. Click here to view more.
In an email to NewsNation, Duke Energy said it is “continuously assessing” and “evolving” its security measures to protect critical infrastructure.
The utility also said in October it plans to spend $75 billion over the next decade “to modernize and harden its transmission and distribution infrastructure.”
Wellinghoff said utilities need to take steps such as constructing block walls around substations with chain-link fences and installing motion-sensing lights and cameras.
While there are federal requirements in place, as Gov. Cooper noted, Weillinghoff said they “were written by the industry and they’re not prescriptive. They’re simply very vague requirements.”
As CBS 17 reported earlier this week, other states including Washington and Oregon have reported “physical attacks on substations,” according to a memo obtained by NewsNation.
“States are going to have to step up, like North Carolina, and they’re going to have to step up and actually prescribe for these utilities which substations and what they need to do,” said Wellinghoff. “It will be a fight but hopefully the Governor and the state Utilities Commission can win that fight.”