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Shots fired near Duke Energy facility in South Carolina

An individual opened fire near a Duke Energy facility at Wateree Hydro Station in Ridgeway, South Carolina, on Wednesday, CBS News has learned.

According to multiple sources, the individual pulled up in a truck outside the facility around 5:30 p.m. ET before opening fire, using what appeared to be a long gun, and then speeding away. Several Duke Energy employees witnessed the event. No one was injured. It was not immediately clear how many people were in the truck.

A law enforcement official confirmed to CBS News that shots were apparently fired. In a statement to CBS News, Duke Energy said it is working "closely" with the FBI to investigate the issue.

"We are aware of reports of gunfire near the Wateree Hydro Station in Ridgeway," a Duke Energy spokesperson told CBS News. "No individuals were harmed. There are no outages reported. There is no known property damage at this time. We are working closely with the FBI on this issue."

Kershaw County Sheriff Lee Boan on Wednesday told CBS affiliate WLTX-TV, "We take this seriously." According to the sheriff, initial reports indicated an individual opened fire near trees lining the power plant. It was not immediately clear if the facility itself was targeted.  

Ridgeway, South Carolina, is a small town of approximately 400 residents located across state lines and about 150 miles southwest of Moore County. The hydro facility — which has been generating power for over a century — is located outside the town's incorporated limits.

The shooting comes just days after a "deliberate" attack, in which gunfire damaged two Duke Energy power substations, caused a widespread power outage in Moore County, North Carolina. It remains unclear if the Moore County outage and Wednesday's shooting are connected.

Officers from the Kershaw County Sheriff's Office were sent out to investigate the incident assisted by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), according to WLTX.

The Department of Energy was notified of the incident.

"The Department of Energy takes the security of our nation's power grid seriously and we work closely with industry to identify and address the evolving threats to the grid," Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement to CBS News. "As power is restored in North Carolina, we'll continue to work with law enforcement on this incident and any other threat to critical energy infrastructure. Those who commit these crimes to our Nation's critical energy infrastructure will be held accountable."

In January, a bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security, obtained by CBS News, warned that domestic violent extremists "have developed credible, specific plans to attack electricity infrastructure since at least 2020, identifying the electric grid as a particularly attractive target." The department has not issued any guidance connecting this week's incidents to extremism. Speaking about the power outage in Moore County, North Carolina, the secretary said Monday that the attack "appears to have been deliberate."

"We are working with energy companies in local communities to address the situation impacting the power that reaches homes in the targeted neighborhoods," DHS Secretary Mayorkas said during an event in Washington, D.C. "The question is, is it an act of malfeasance or otherwise? Early evidence suggests that it was deliberate. And the investigation is underway."

"The utility sector has a real problem on its hands," said Brian Harrell, former assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at DHS. "Power stations are an attractive target and domestic terror groups know that destroying this infrastructure can have a crippling effect on industry, citizens, and local governments."

The FBI continues to seek information about the person or persons who it said vandalized two Moore County electrical substations, turning off the lights for 45,000.

The FBI did not immediately reply to a CBS News request for comment.

Chris St. Peter and Pat Milton contributed to this report. 

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