Copper theft is a problem of such national scope that it has united NRECA, the Edison Electric Institute, and others in support of a U.S. Senate bill.

 

NRECA is one of 13 signatories to a letter supporting federal metal theft legislation. (Photo By: Michael W. Kahn)

NRECA is one of 13 signatories to a letter supporting federal metal theft legislation. (Photo By: Michael W. Kahn)

“Metal theft is a persistent problem that plagues businesses in a wide array of industries, threatens public safety, and causes great harm to communications, utility, and transportation infrastructure,” reads the letter to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chief sponsor of S. 394, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a co-sponsor.

Demonstrating the far-reaching concern, other signers include Home Depot, the International Council of Shopping Centers, and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association.

“Construction sites, foreclosed homes, telecommunications infrastructure, retail establishments, and utilities are common targets as thieves seek to steal copper communications lines, electrical wiring, air conditioning units, and countless other sources of metal that they can then sell to scrap yards,” the letter states.

Under the bill, metal theft would be a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine, or both. Sellers of more than $100 would have to be paid by check, though the federal bill would yield to state and local laws with their own maximum cash payouts.

In most cases, the bill would require scrap dealers to keep written or electronic records of purchases, including a description of the items, the seller’s name and address, and the make, model and license plate of the seller’s vehicle.

Supporters signing the letter noted that beyond the cost of the stolen copper and other metals, there is often a cost that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

“By stealing metal from telecommunications lines, thieves have cut off communities from access to emergency 911 services,” the letter reads, “and by stealing wiring from streetlights and electrical substations, they have left highways and communities dark.”