West Virginia Lawmakers hear concerns regarding copper theft bill (audio)
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By Steven Allen Adams | West Virginia Watchdog
CHARLESTON — One scrap yard owner told lawmakers that their proposal to curb copper theft had good parts, but it also had bad sections.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard this morning from Tony Coffman, owner of Coffman’s Metals in Birch River, W.Va. Senators are looking at SB528, which has 16 co-sponsors.
“I wish they would have consulted the industry when writing this bill,” Coffman said. “This is our industry. This is our livelihood. We do have suggestions. We don’t want stolen material. But as far as I know we were never consulted with this or asked any suggestions we might have until after the fact.”
SB528 would require scrap metal dealers to obtain a business license and keep certain information from each scrap metal transaction. The dealer and seller would need to sign a purchase ticket and statements of ownership, with dealers required to produce information upon request of law enforcement officers and notify law enforcement under certain circumstances.
The bill prohibits the possession of stolen or unlawfully obtained scrap metal, and prohibits the purchase of certain items of scrap metal without proof of lawful possession. Payments for scrap metal must be made by check. The bill increases criminal penalties and authorizes suspension or revocation of business licenses for failure to properly register or obtain information.
Coffman is a second generation scrap dealer with 31 years of experience. As part of the West Virginia Recyclers Association, Coffman said scrap yards have been working with utilities and law enforcement to copper theft laws.
“We do not want to buy stolen materials guys,” Coffman said. ” We have tried to work with the utility companies…to come up and strengthen some of the law and enforce the ones on the books. We agree with some of the things put forth here. Some we can’t live with.”
Coffman’s complaints with SB528 match up with complaints by other scrap yards in the state, including West Virginia Cashin Recyclables in Nitro, W.Va. One of those complaints was over requiring scrap yards to pay sellers with checks. Coffman said requiring checks for all transactions would cripple his business.
“I’m 25 miles from the nearest bank,” Coffman said. “A lot of people come to my place with their last dime to sell a scrap car or something off the farm. A lot of people make a few extra dollars…this is their second income. If I write them a check, their going to have to have enough money in their checking account to cover that check.”
Coffman said the copper theft problem involves the theft of copper communication wire in southern West Virginia, with very few problems north of Logan County. According to Coffman, most scrap yards copy down drivers’ license numbers, descriptions of vehicles and plate numbers, and make this information available for law enforcement.
The bill originally had tougher restrictions on scrap yards, but was rewritten by Sunday. The committee took no action on the bill today.
- Recycling industry watching West Virginia copper theft bill (westvirginia.watchdog.org)
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