HB 241, to make it a felony to enter an electrical substation with the intent of stealing metal, and to require scrap dealers to photograph both sellers and the metal they sell them in efforts to deter growing metal theft, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon after much testimony. Neil Colwell, lobbyist for Avista Corp., said the utility has seen 92 thefts in the past three years resulting in losses of about $400,000. “It’s not just an issue in our service territory, but it is statewide,” he told the committee. He said farmers and utilities increasingly are losing metal that nets the thief a small amount of money, but costs the farmer or utility tens of thousands to replace the equipment; theft of metal from utilities also threatens public safety and interrupts service, he said.
Several scrap dealers – who just this morning hired lobbyist Roy Eiguren to represent them – said they want input into new regulations in their business. “We didn’t learn about this until last week, we weren’t part of the process,” Michael Cataldo told the committee. Colwell and Eiguren said a working group is being formed and will start meeting in May, including the scrap dealers, to develop farther reaching regulations to cope with the problem. The committee approved the bill on a unanimous vote; it’s now headed to the full Senate.