Newly approved legislation protects critical infrastructure
Published 3:24 pm Wednesday, June 21, 2023
RALEIGH – Senate Bill 58 was recently passed by the General Assembly and has been signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper.
The bill amends existing laws and creates harsher punishments for the intentional damage of public utilities, energy facilities, communications equipment such as substations, wireless communication towers, telephone poles and wires, etc.
In December of 2022, an attack was carried out against two electrical substations in Moore County, leaving nearly 40,000 homes and businesses without power for several days while repairs were being made. The deliberate attack caused significant hardship and damage to people and property.
In addition to the Moore County Sheriff’s Office, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Department of Energy Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response responded to the incident.
Unfortunately, North Carolina was not the only state to experience such attacks.
In 2022, there were nearly a dozen other attacks on electrical substations around the country, which left thousands of people without power for several days at a time and caused millions of dollars in damages. Hundreds more incidents impacting other critical infrastructure were also reported.
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. If such damages to the infrastructure result in a death, the offense is punishable as a Class B2 felony.
The law also increases the penalties for trespassing on these facilities and increases the penalty for willful damage to telephone or telecommunications systems.
“The attack on our county’s substations last year brought to light a new vulnerability in our community,” said Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields. “This new law with
increased penalties will hopefully deter incidents like this in the future, and if they occur will provide significant punishment for the perpetrators.”
This bill was supported by the North Carolina Sheriffs’
The changes will go into effect on Dec. 1, 2023.