RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Governor Roy Cooper (D) signed Senate Bill 58 into law, which creates harsher punishments for the intentional damage of public utilities such as substations.

In Dec. 2022, an attack was carried out against two electrical substations in Moore County. Nearly 45,000 homes and businesses were without power for several days while repairs were being made.

Last Friday U.S. Representative Richard Hudson (R-NC), who represents Moore County, held a congressional hearing about possible solutions following the power grid attack. Duke Energy representatives and Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields took part in the discussions.

Prior to the law passing, damaging public utilities was generally punishable as a misdemeanor, or a Class H or I felony depending on the circumstances, according to the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association.

“The attack on our country’s substations last year brought to light a new vulnerability in our community,” said Sheriff Fields. “This new law with increased penalties will hopefully deter incidents like this in the future, and if they occur will provide significant punishment for the perpetrators.”

The new law increases penalties for the offenses. It will be a Class C felony to intentionally damage, attempt to destroy or disable an energy facility. The offender will also be fined $250,000 and allows anyone injured as a result of an attack to sue the perpetrator for damages.

According to the NC Sheriffs’ Association, if the damages result in a death, the offense is considered a Class B2 felony. The law also increases penalties for trespassing on these facilities and increases the penalty for willful damage to telephone or telecommunications systems.