North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper recently signed into law a bill that will, among other things, increase penalties for acts of damage to energy facilities.
Cooper, who signed SB 58 on June 19, said "We must protect critical infrastructure that keeps electric power and clean water available in our communities, and this bill sends a message to criminals that these irresponsible acts will not be tolerated.”
The new law consolidates and updates the existing statutes that govern damage to electric, gas, and telecommunications infrastructure, and increase applicable penalties for those offenses.
The law creates a new statute making it a Class C felony to knowingly and willfully destroy, injure, or otherwise damage, or attempt to destroy, injure, or otherwise damage, an energy facility.
If the conduct results in the death of another, however, the offense would be punishable as a Class B2 felony.
The term "energy facility" is defined as "any facility involved in the production, storage, transmission, or distribution of electricity, fuel, or another form or source of energy, or research, development, or demonstration facilities related thereto, regardless of whether the facility is under construction or is otherwise not functioning.” The term includes any line, wire, pipe, other property or equipment used as part of the normal operation of a facility, and hardware, software, or other digital infrastructure necessary for the operations of a facility.
The law also imposes a $250,000 penalty for violation of the statute.
It also authorizes any person injured by reason of damage to an energy facility to sue for and recover treble damages, punitive damages, costs, and attorneys’ fees from the person who committed the violation, and any person who acts as an accessory before or after the fact, aids or abets, solicits, conspires, or lends material support to the violation.
The law becomes effective December 1, 2023, and applies to offenses committed on or after that date.
Prosecutions for offenses committed before the effective date of the bill would not be abated or affected by the law, and the statutes that would be applicable but for this bill remain applicable to those prosecutions.
In late 2022, investor-owned Duke Energy responded to power outages caused by vandalism against utility equipment in North Carolina.
In June, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy, Climate, and Grid Security, held a hearing last week titled, “Enhancing America’s Grid Security and Resilience.”
The hearing took place in Moore County, where in December 2022, the electric substations were attacked causing power outages.
Suspects Charged with Attacks on Washington State Substations
In early 2023, two suspects were charged in attacks on substations in Washington State that occurred on Dec. 25, 2022.
The four substations that were targeted were the Graham and Elk Plain substations operated by public power utility Tacoma Power and the Kapowsin and Hemlock substations operated by Puget Sound Energy, an investor-owned utility.
Department of Justice Charges Two People With Conspiracy to Attack Maryland Substations
The U.S. Department of Justice on Feb. 6 announced the filing of a federal criminal complaint charging two people with conspiracy to destroy substations in Maryland.