Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pennsylvania electric utilities monitoring grid for threats in wake of North Carolina attacks

Transmission lines stretch through farm fields in Chanceford Township, York County on Sept. 13, 2021.
Rachel McDevitt
StateImpact Pennsylvania
Transmission lines stretch through farm fields in Chanceford Township, York County on Sept. 13, 2021.

Pennsylvania utilities are monitoring for threats after an attack on two electric substations left thousands of people without power in North Carolina.

North Carolina officials are still trying to figure out who shot the two substations and why.

Meanwhile, Gov. Roy Cooper is calling for utilities to find ways to harden their infrastructure against similar attacks.

FirstEnergy owns Penn Power, Met-Ed, Penelec, and West Penn Power, which together serve more than 2 million customers in Pennsylvania. The company says it uses real-time monitoring to detect physical and cyber attacks on the grid.

“Protecting the energy grid and providing our customers with reliable power is a top priority for FirstEnergy,” the company said in a statement. “A wide variety of surveillance, deterrence, physical and technology measures are in place, and we continually invest to ensure our protective measures are robust.”

FirstEnergy says it also participates in drills throughout the year to make sure it can respond and restore power quickly in the wake of an incident.

WESA Inbox Edition Newsletter

Start your morning with today's news on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

Federal intelligence officials are watching for these types of events. A memo last year from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center said a drone found crashed near a Pennsylvania power station in 2020 was likely an attempted attack.

Pennsylvania’s utility regulator says it requires companies to have security and emergency response plans.

“The physical security of critical infrastructure and systems is an important part of every utility’s planning and operation,” said Gladys Brown Dutrieuille, chair of the state Public Utility Commission. “As part of their planning, PUC-regulated utilities regularly certify that they have physical security, cybersecurity, and emergency response plans in-place, and that those plans are regularly reviewed, updated, and tested.”

Brown Dutrieuille said the PUC partners with utilities, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies to monitor these types of incidents and use the information in future planning.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among WESA, The Allegheny Front, WITF and WHYY.