A bill that makes theft of commodity metals from utilities such as La Plata Electric Association and transportation companies a felony is awaiting the signature of Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Among popular commodity metals that can be resold are copper and aluminum.
The Senate bill, Endangering Utility Transmission, makes tampering with electrical facilities, railroads, water lines or fuel pipelines a felony punishable by up to eight years in prison.
LPEA lost two rolls of copper ground wire, a total of 600 feet, when thieves broke into a storage yard in Ignacio a year to 18 months ago, said Steve Gregg, LPEA manager of operations.
“The rolls were worth about $100 each,” Gregg said. “I imagine the thieves could get about half that amount by selling it.”
A more serious problem, he said, is that when protective structures such as fences or buildings are breached, high-voltage transmission equipment can be left exposed to the public.
The two LPEA rolls of copper wire, stored on the backs of trucks, were easy pickings, Gregg said. Since then, motion-sensor lights and a security camera have been installed at the Ignacio maintenance yard, he said.
The bill, SB 049, came about from concern about the rising number of commodity metal thefts. The Commodity Metals Theft Task Force was formed in response.