The 42 Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs) in Georgia, including Upson EMC, have brought the issue of metals theft before the 2007 Georgia General Assembly.
The EMCs and Georgia EMC have led an industry effort to craft legislation aimed at closing gaps in existing law concerning metals theft.
“Not just in Georgia, but all across the United States, copper theft has become rampant,” said John Brodnax of Upson EMC. “There have been several fatalities in the United States and serious burns and injuries in Georgia, all because someone wanted to make a couple hundred dollars off copper.”
Aimed at curbing the dangerous trend, Senate Bill 203 increases the penalties for persons convicted of metals theft and grants utility employees, including those with Upson EMC, broad powers to investigate metals theft cases with scrap metal dealers.
Sponsored by Senators Seth Harp (R-Midland), Cecil Staton (R- Macon), Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), John Douglas (R-Social Circle), Doug Stoner (R-Smyrna), Bill Hamrick (R-Carrollton), Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg), Jack Murphy (R-Cumming), David Shafer (R-Duluth) and Johnny Grant (R-Milledgeville), SB 203 passed out of the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee on March 1 with a unanimous vote.
The proposed legislation contains two main provisions: 1) it allows for the seizure of any property used in the theft of metals (i.e. tools, vehicles, etc.), and 2) it allows an appointed person from a utility to have the right to inspect any and all purchased regulated metal property.
In addition to combating metals theft through legislation, Upson EMC, Georgia EMC and other stakeholders are spearheading an educational effort to advise local prosecutors, sheriffs, chiefs of police, county commissioners and mayors about the magnitude of the problem.
“Senate Bill 203 is about protecting the public's safety and controlling the spiraling costs associated with metals theft,” said Brodnax.
Upson EMC is a consumer-owned cooperative providing electricity and related services to 9300 accounts in Upson, Pike, Talbot, Meriwether, Crawford and Taylor counties.