Two North Carolina power substations were shot out of service by gunfire, knocking out power to 45,000 customers.
The FBI is carrying out investigations, and the White House is monitoring the situation closely. This appears to be a new case of domestic terrorism.
Since the beginning of the year, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, there have been nine physical attacks on the U.S. power grid with the intent to harm national security.
The Rise of Ultra-Right-Wing Terrorism
The number of U.S. federal law enforcement investigations into domestic terrorism has tripled in the past five years and doubled since the January 2021 Capitol uprising: 90% of investigations involve anti-authority attacks according to internal FBI data obtained by Newsweek.
The power grid is the perfect target for ultra-right-wing accelerationist groups who want to use infrastructure sabotage, bombings and assassinations to cause chaos, destabilize and destroy the U.S. political system.
Last January, a DHS report warned that domestic extremists have been developing “credible and specific plans” to attack electrical infrastructure since at least 2020.
In February, three white supremacists pleaded guilty to conspiring to attack power grids and to inciting civil unrest.
Canadian Power Lines under Attack
Canada is not immune to these kinds of attacks on its own electrical infrastructure.
Quebec still remembers the December 2014 aerial attack by “pilot to the stars” Normand Dubé against six 735-kilovolt lines that plunged 180,000 homes into darkness.
Dubé, who wanted to take revenge on Hydro-Québec by causing it $30 million in damages, was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
And it was without a doubt an environmentalist who in 2004 damaged Hydro-Québec’s high-voltage line to New England.
In another potential threat to Hydro, a 2021 intelligence bulletin issued by DHS and the FBI warned of the threat posed by drones to critical energy infrastructure. A small drone had conducted what was likely an attempted attack on an electrical substation in Pennsylvania.
Drone technology is readily available to terrorists and disturbed individuals. Inexpensive, easy to transport and easy to use, small drones have been used before with improvised explosive charges in assassination attempts.
Physical Security as well as Cyber Security
While media attention here and in the U.S. is focused on securing the power grid against cyber attacks, it is physical security which remains extremely important.
The Americans are developing countermeasures to ensure the protection of their electrical networks against cyber and physical attacks.
As Hydro-Québec has just invested $2 billion to acquire 13 hydroelectric power plants in New England and will soon extend its lines to New York, it is certain that it will benefit from such developments.
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