Georgia Rep. Rob Leverett

ATLANTA – Legislation introduced into the state House of Representatives Monday would establish the crime of “interference with critical infrastructure” in Georgia.

House Bill 227, sponsored by Rep. Rob Leverett, R-Elberton, was prompted by a rash of attacks in recent months by gunmen on utility substations. The most widely publicized was an attack on two Duke Energy substations in Moore County, N.C., in December that left about 45,000 customers without power for days.

Under the legislation, critical infrastructure includes electricity, water, sewers, telecommunications, internet, public transportation and public transit systems, hospitals, ambulances, emergency medical and rescue services, the military, police, Coast Guard, and prison and fire services.

The bill is being endorsed by Georgia EMC, the umbrella organization representing 41 electric membership corporations across the state, as a way to protect customers from service disruptions.

“People need electricity — and other critical infrastructure — in their jobs, schools and homes for cooking, heating, communicating and even supporting medical treatments,” Georgia EMC spokesman Walter Jones said. “Would-be bad actors need to know that Georgia protects its citizens.”

The measure provides penalties of up to 20 years in prison for the most serious offenders, those who intentionally damage a form of critical infrastructure with the intention of disrupting service.

Intentionally interfering with the “proper operation” of a form of critical infrastructure is a lesser offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

In either case, the bill requires the offender to pay restitution for the damage.

Tampering with any form of critical infrastructure, such as preventing an electric meter from registering how much electricity a customer has used, would be a misdemeanor.

The bill’s cosponsors include House Majority Whip James Burchett, R-Waycross, and House Majority Caucus Chairman Bruce Williamson, R-Monroe.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.