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Damaging Energy Infrastructure Would Become Felony Under New Bill

Plan Would Impose Harsh Penalties On People Who Intentionally Harm Transmission Systems

Crazy Joe Davola (CC-BY-NC)

Damaging a substation or powerline would become a felony under a bill that’s circulating among state lawmakers.

Under the legislation authored by state Rep. David Steffen, a person who intentionally harms Wisconsin’s transmission system or trespasses on a utility site would be charged with a felony. Currently, the crime is treated as a misdemeanor.

Steffen said the bill would also add harsher penalties for people who steal materials like copper from energy infrastructure in order to sell it.

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The energy industry had a bit of a wake-up call back in 2013 when snipers shot up a California substation, blasting transformers, causing millions of dollars in damage, and exposing some major physical vulnerabilities. Some utilities stepped up their security around key infrastructure in the aftermath of the attack.

Steffen said the potential damage from such an attack can have a huge impact on utilities and residents.

“Certainly as we’ve seen … just over the recent week, it’s incredibly important that we protect all of our infrastructure as it relates to terrorism,” said Steffen.

He said the penalties for harming energy infrastructure need to better fit the crimes, since damaging the grid can cause major problems like blackouts.

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