Officials confirm deliberate physical attacks on Oregon and Washington substations

Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 5:07 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Following what authorities are calling a targeted gunfire attack towards power substations in North Carolina over the weekend, a federal memo warned substations in Oregon and Washington recently had “physical attacks on substations using handtools, arson, firearms, and metal chains possibly in response to an online call for attacks on critical infrastructure.”

The memo goes on to say the aim is “to cause widespread power failures with the potential impact of social disruption and violent anti-government criminal activity.”

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Randall Blazak, a sociology professor and extremism researcher says there’s a reason behind substations being hit.

“We are seeing more chatter in the wake of the mid-term elections,” said Blazak. “These are soft targets. Power stations aren’t surrounded by armed guards. The surveillance is minimal and it’s relatively easy to take a pot shot at a reservoir or a sub station and get away with it.”

In Woodland, Cowlitz PUD confirmed two of its substations had been vandalized.

Cowlitz PUD is aware of vandalism on two of our substations in the Woodland area which occurred in Mid-November. At this time we do not have any further comment as this is an active investigation and we are cooperating with local, state and federal law enforcement. Our facilities have since been repaired.

PGE also confirmed one of its substations in Clackamas County had been hit. A spokesperson for PGE said as it’s still an ongoing investigation, many details cannot be released at this time, but provided the following statement:

“PGE is coordinating closely with multiple law enforcement agencies on the investigation, including the FBI. The attack occurred at one of our substations in the Clackamas area. Attacks on electric infrastructure are serious crimes regardless of whether inspired by malicious intent or simple vandalism, and community members who see evidence of vandalism to electrical equipment or suspect a threat should report these to law enforcement.”

PGE also clarified Thursday that the substation fire on Nov. 4 near near Mt. Tabor in Portland was not related to the attacks, and was determined to be caused by an equipment failure.

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Pacific Power didn’t say if any of its substations were hit, but says it’s aware of the reports and provided the following statement:

“We have security measures in place to protect our assets and keep our customers and employees safe and secure. We are working closely with industry partners and law enforcement to monitor the situation and will apply any emerging threat information to evaluate against our security measures to reduce the likelihood or impact of an attack where possible. As always, protecting the grid and ensuring a reliable and affordable supply of energy are top priorities for the energy industry and Pacific Power.”

Fox 12 also received a statement from the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC):

“The PUC is aware of a deliberate physical attack to a PGE substation in late November, which authorities are currently investigating. We work in close partnership with energy utilities to help ensure safe and reliable utility services for Oregonians.”

We reached out to multiple law enforcement agencies across the area, many said they have not had any targeted attacks or threats, but many patrols routinely check the areas substations are located.

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The FBI Portland office stated while it can’t provide information from internal documents to the public, they provided this statement:

“While our standard practice is to decline comment on specific bulletins, the FBI routinely shares information with our law enforcement partners in order to assist in protecting the communities they serve. We urge the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.”