ESFI Reports on Growing Problem of Copper Theft

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) has released the complete results of its 2008 Copper Theft Baseline Survey of Utilities, a instrument developed to measure how the growing problem of copper wire theft is perceived and addressed by major utility stakeholders across the country. The results reveal critical information about the scope of the problem and how it is being communicated to employees, stakeholders, and the public.

Copper theft has become a serious public safety issue in recent years as the price of copper in the U.S. has increased. People are increasingly being injured and killed while trying to steal copper wire from utility company assets. As a result, utilities across the country have been forced to respond with new measures for safeguarding their equipment and their employees from the dangers posed by these brazen thefts. 

 "As the number of copper thefts has continued to rise, this issue has not only impacted the U.S. electric utility industry which has been forced to repair and replace damaged or stolen equipment, but has had an adverse effect on the general public," explained Brett Brenner, president of ESFI. "People are experiencing property damage and power outages as a direct result of these thefts."

At least twenty-six states have considered legislative action, such as the Copper Theft Prevention Act of 2008. This legislation would impose stricter penalties and regulations on metal recyclers and dealers who engage in copper transactions.

"Plenty of anecdotal evidence that details the nature of this problem in various regions does exist. However, very little information has been made available to date that accurately reveals the effects of utility copper theft on a national scale," Brenner said. "The success of this survey is a testament to the cooperative efforts that have been made by ESFI and the electric utilities industry to create a forum for evaluating and responding to copper wire theft and other public safety issues."

ESFI worked closely with the Edison Electrical Institute (EEI), the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), and the American Public Power Association (APPA) to create a confidential questionnaire that would extract detailed information from shareholders and community-owned utility members about the frequency and impact of utility copper theft.

The complete results of ESFI's 2008 Copper Theft Baseline Survey of Utilities can be viewed at www.electrical-safety.org.

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