NC Gov. Cooper: It was ‘too easy’ for electrical substations to be damaged by gunfire

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that it was “too easy” for two electrical substations to be damaged by gunfire in Moore County, knocking out power to thousands of people for days.

Local officials called the damage by a person or multiple people an intentional act. No arrests had been made as of Tuesday morning. Talking to reporters after a Council of State meeting in Raleigh on Tuesday morning, Cooper said that law enforcement are “leaving no stone unturned in this investigation,” but revealed no specifics.

“Looking at all of the information, this is a very thorough investigation — federal, state and local all coordinating. I met with them yesterday and encouraged them to use all resources. I talked to the [district attorney] there. I talked to the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District. We know that we need to find the person or persons who did this,” Cooper said.

Cooper told reporters that they have not received any specific indication that a similar attack could happen elsewhere.

“But I will tell you this: I think we need to assess where we are on our critical infrastructure. I know that there are a number of federal requirements that utilities have to abide by. But this seemed to be too easy,” Cooper said.

N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper talked to reporters on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, after a Council of State meeting at the Department of Transportation agency headquarters in downtown Raleigh. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan/dvaughan@newsobserver.com
N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper talked to reporters on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, after a Council of State meeting at the Department of Transportation agency headquarters in downtown Raleigh. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan/dvaughan@newsobserver.com

“This was a malicious attack that was intentional. People knew what they were doing to disable the substation. And for that much damage to be caused, causing so much problem, economic loss, safety challenges to so many people for so long — I think we have to look at what we might need to do to harden that infrastructure,” he said.

Cooper called for a long-term assessment of electrical substations.

Utility companies know what’s critical, he said, and the state needs to talk with federal regulators. He said that there are a “number of things” that he has talked about, but “I wouldn’t want to say that publicly because they’re in the middle of this investigation. And I certainly think we need to be guided by what happened here and how it happened.”

Law enforcement has been more vigilant since the attack, particularly around Moore County, in checking on substations, Cooper said.

“There are actually thousands of these substations all across the country, and many of them are in fairly remote areas and are exposed. There are various levels of protection,” he said.

“I think that the utilities have levels of protection that they’re required to have. A lot of things depend on what they need. But one of those is how many people could be potentially affected by damage done in a particular substation.”

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How the state is helping Moore County

North Carolina’s state government is helping Moore County through mass feedings, providing lighting for intersections with no power and providing generators. Cooper said that the Department of Health and Human Services is also working to make sure that adult care homes’ needs are met so people don’t get sicker or injured because they don’t have power.

Brothers Tom and Derek Markey carry a portable generator outside of Betsy’s Crepes restaurant on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, in Southern Pines, N.C. Tom Markey, an employee at the business, said the generator was purchased a few years ago for power outages due to severe weather, but this is its first use. Kaitlin McKeown/kmckeown@newsobserver.com
Brothers Tom and Derek Markey carry a portable generator outside of Betsy’s Crepes restaurant on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, in Southern Pines, N.C. Tom Markey, an employee at the business, said the generator was purchased a few years ago for power outages due to severe weather, but this is its first use. Kaitlin McKeown/kmckeown@newsobserver.com

The State Highway Patrol is helping out, and the State Bureau of Investigation is helping with the coordinated investigation, he said. Cooper said the state is working closely with Moore County’s emergency management, similar to what it does in other disasters.

Duke Energy now expects to restore power in Moore County by Thursday morning.

Cooper told reporters on Tuesday that Duke Energy is “working around the clock. The substation that I visited, there were a lot of people and equipment that were working. So we’re hoping it will be earlier than that, but that is the time that they believe they can get it done. And hoping they can finish sooner than that.”

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