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Kemp signs bill punishing attacks on utilities, public services

by Georgia EMC

Posted on May 03, 2023 at 0:00 AM

On April 26, Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation protecting Georgians from criminal attacks that interrupt transmission lines for electricity, water, telephone and internet.

“This legislation will ensure Georgians are safeguarded against wrongdoers who – for whatever reasons – seek to interfere with the critical services of modern life, from water and sewage to electricity and broadband,” said Dennis Chastain, president of Georgia Electric Membership Corporation (EMC), the trade association for Georgia’s 41 electric cooperatives. “Protecting these services is vital to keeping Georgia both a good place to live and a good place to do business.”

Georgia’s electric cooperatives led the effort to pass House Bill 227, the Criminal Damage to Critical Infrastructure Act, sponsored by Rep. Rob Leverett, R-Elberton. The Senate sponsor was Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens. Besides utilities, it also protects public transportation, hospitals, ambulances, prisons and fire services.

It was prompted by the December attacks on two substations in Moore County, N.C., that left 40,000 customers of Randolph EMC and Duke Energy in the dark. Federal officials reported there had been a 77% increase in direct physical attacks on the electric grid in 2022 from the previous year. In 2022, there were 163 attacks across more than three dozen states, impacting about 90,000 customers.

This legislation provides penalties of up to 20 years in prison for those who deliberately damage critical infrastructure with the intention of disrupting service.

Other power companies and utilities groups – as well as the Georgia Chamber of Commerce – followed Georgia EMC’s lead in supporting the legislation which overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate during the 2023 session.

Georgia Chamber of Commerce President Chris Clark celebrated Wednesday’s bill signing as important to the state’s prosperity.

“These vital resources are fundamental to the continued success of Georgia’s business community and the overall well-being of our citizens statewide,” he said. “The Georgia Chamber applauds Governor Kemp, Rep. Rob Leverett, and members of the General Assembly for prioritizing public safety and ensuring the security of our state’s diverse critical infrastructure network through HB 227.”

The measure takes effect July 1. Kemp signed it in a ceremony during the Georgia Sheriff's Association Conference at Lake Lanier Islands as part of a package of “law and order” bills.

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