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Gov. Cooper says Moore County attack signals a 'new threat level'

Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at a press conference in Moore County on Monday.
Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at a press conference in Moore County on Monday.

Governor Roy Cooper says he wants utilities to ramp up electric grid security following Saturday’s attack on two electrical substations in Moore County, North Carolina, that knocked out power to about 45,000 customers.

At a news conference Monday, Cooper said the state will consider new strategies to keep the state’s infrastructure safe.

"This kind of attack raises a new level of threat. We will be evaluating ways to work with our utility providers and our state and federal officials to make sure that we harden our infrastructure where that’s necessary, and work to prevent future damage," Cooper said.

Investigators are still trying to uncover who shot up the substations in Moore County Saturday night, knocking out power to nearly the entire county. Sheriff Ronnie Fields said it appeared the attacker or attackers, who shot critical equipment at both substations, knew what they were doing. The FBI and State Bureau of Investigation are involved, but so far, investigators have not provided any information about suspects or a motive.

Duke Energy said the damage was significant- and will take days to repair. The power company said most residents won’t get power back until Wednesday or Thursday.

Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks would not say what security measures Duke had on the two substations. Asked if there were cameras, lighting or fencing, he said only: "We have multiple layers of security along the grid to protect various assets that are essential to the service of the grid."

"Because it's an ongoing investigation, and for security reasons, we don't really comment on specifically what measures are there, because we want to protect those assets," he added.

"I can tell you that all the security requirements for this facility were in place and followed. Those are things that are there to prevent access. But we're going to obviously be investigating this and working to better understand what occurred here," Brooks said.

Asked if Duke has taken any additional security measures across its network, Brooks said: "We're working with the sheriff's office to maintain a heightened level of awareness and security there in Moore County, and in the surrounding area. We're certainly taking a look as we do every day, but especially in light of this, across our system to determine what steps, if any, are needed in certain places to protect key assets."

Almost 37,000 customers remained without power Tuesday.

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal
David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.