North Carolina lawmakers have had enough of the alarming new trend of people shooting up power stations or attempting to incapacitate them in other ways.
This week, Senate Bill 58 was signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper after successfully making its way through the legislature. The new law brings harsher punishments for anyone who intentionally damages public utilities, energy generating facilities or communications infrastructure such as cell phone towers, and telephone poles.
The new law will go into effect on Dec. 1.
Attacks on power stations and other infrastructure showed up in full force on the national radar last year and state officials are attempting to mitigate the alarming practice.
In December 2022, two electrical substations in Moore County, North Carolina left about 45,000 homes and businesses without power. That outage lasted several days for many of them. In addition to Moore County Sheriff’s Office, several state law enforcement agencies investigated the attack.
There were at least 10 attacks on electrical grids that occurred in other states last year. There were hundreds of reports of attacks to key infrastructure towers, lines and facilities across the country.
According to a statement from the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, “Prior to passage of this law, damaging public utilities was generally punishable as a misdemeanor, or a Class H or a Class I felony depending on the circumstances. The new law will increase penalties for such offenses. It will be a Class C felony to knowingly damage, attempt to destroy or disable an energy facility. The offender will also be responsible for a $250,000 fine for violation of the statute and allows anyone injured as a result of the attack to sue the perpetrator for damages.”
Also, if those damages to the infrastructure result in death, the offense becomes a higher-class felony.
The new law also increases penalties for trespassing in the protected areas and includes harsher punishments than previously existed for damaging communications infrastructure.
A lot of law enforcement officials were thrilled to see the Senate Bill become law this week. Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields was clearly one of them. In a public statement, he said the December attack on the substations “brought to light a new vulnerability in our community.”
“This new law with increased penalties will hopefully deter incidents like this in the future,” he added, “and if they occur will provide significant punishment for the perpetrators.”