FBI Investigating Attacks On Multiple Power Stations In Washington State

By Charlene Badasie | Published

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At least six power station attacks at electricity facilities in the Pacific Northwest are being investigated by the FBI. A spokesperson for Puget Sound Energy, the Cowlitz County Public Utility District, Portland General Electric, and Bonneville Power Administration told The Seattle Times the incidents took place in November. Although the FBI declined to confirm its involvement, the utilities say they are cooperating with the bureau.

It’s still unclear if the power station attacks at the Northwest facilities caused any power disruptions. The news follows a shooting that damaged substations in North Carolina, leaving thousands without power over the weekend. As a result, energy experts have stressed the need to secure the power grid as vulnerable electricity infrastructure could be a target for domestic terrorists.

Bonneville Power Administration spokesperson Douglas Johnson also confirmed that “deliberate” physical power station attacks at a facility in Clackamas, Oregon occurred over the Thanksgiving holiday. A fence was cut and equipment was badly damaged. The BPA is a key player in the Northwest power transmission system that supplies power from federal hydroelectric dams to regional utilities and elsewhere in the West.

“BPA is actively cooperating with the FBI on the power station attacks,” Johnson told the publication. He also encouraged other electricity utilities throughout the region to increase their vigilance and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement. Although no details about the equipment damage was released, the BPA said the incident which occurred in the early morning hours of November 24th caused problems with a substation along its main transmission line.

“Someone clearly wanted to damage equipment and cause a power outage,” Transmission Vice President of Field Services John Lahti told The Seattle Times. He added that the damage and associated cleanup from the power station attacks will cost Northwest ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Fortunately, the region was able to avoid any disruption to the power supply which would have jeopardized public safety, increased financial damages, and presented challenges to the community.

The FBI’s Seattle field office declined to comment on the power station attacks. The agency also failed to confirm that it sent bulletins to local law enforcement and utility companies warning of attacks. But they do routinely share information with law enforcement partners to assist in protecting the communities they serve from danger.

Meanwhile, the FBI and North Carolina sheriff’s deputies issued active warrants for suspects involved in the power station attacks on Moore County facilities. The incident left 45,000 residents without power, according to Independent UK. The Bureau was also granted a federal order to obtain cell phone records to identify anyone who was near the two substations at the time.

The FBI has been investigating a potential link to a drag queen show that was held in Southern Pines on the same day. But for now, no motive for the power station attacks has been released by authorities. However, law enforcement did manage to recover two dozen shell casings from a high-powered rifle close to the scene, CNN reports. The investigation is ongoing.