Two men have been arrested and charged with conspiracy to damage energy facilities in the Christmas Day attacks on four Washington substations, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.
Matthew Greenwood, 32, and Jeremy Crahan, 40, were also each charged with possession of an unregistered firearm. According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the pair had been “planning to disrupt power to commit a burglary.”
The men cut through fences and padlocks to enter the substations and manipulated breakers to cause an outage, authorities said. Cell phone records and surveillance images from the substations led to the two men’s arrest.
“We have seen attacks such as these increase in Western Washington and throughout the country and must treat each incident seriously,” U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said in a statement. “The outages on Christmas left thousands in the dark and cold and put some who need power for medical devices at extreme risk.”
Tacoma Power and Puget Sound Energy each had two substations damaged in the attacks, which caused more than 14,000 outages.
Substation vandalism is not uncommon, but it is unusual for an outage to result, experts say. Attacks on utility equipment are increasing. Six substations in the Pacific Northwest were damaged by attacks in November, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into a North Carolina firearms attack earlier this month that knocked power out to about 45,000 Duke Energy customers.
The four Washington substations damaged last month were Tacoma Power’s Graham and Elk Plain substations and Puget Sound Energy’s Kapowsin and Hemlock substations. Damage to the Tacoma Power substations is estimated to be at least $3 million, according to the charging documents.
“Tacoma Power is currently required to utilize two mobile transformers at each facility in order to maintain power to customers,” according to the complaint. “Combined output went from 50 megawatts to 15 megawatts.”