MARCH 2009

Metal theft legislation threatens industry

Legislation introduced in the Congress in February meant to address the issue of metal theft, falls short of adequately addressing the issue.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) has problems with legislation introduced in the Senate (S. 418) by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and in the House (H.R. 1006) by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.).

The bills contain onerous provisions regarding payments for purchases and enforcement targeted only at recyclers. Additionally, the bills would inappropriately attempt to regulate recyclers without any relationship to metal theft. Worse still, the bills are strangely silent regarding the real problem: metal thieves.

Unfortunately, the Metal Theft Prevention Act (H.R. 1006/S. 418) places the onus for solving the problem on the scrap recycling industry and not on the criminals. The scrap recycling industry employs over 85,000 people throughout the United States – most in blue-collar jobs manufacturing specification-grade raw materials that are used as direct substitutes for virgin ores in the manufacture of new basic materials.

In 2007, the last full year for which numbers are available, the industry processed over 150 million tons of materials, resulting in extraordinary energy savings and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This $71 billion industry, which contributed over $20 billion to the United States balance of trade with other nations, has been around for hundreds of years. The people in this industry are not criminals and don’t deserve to be treated as such.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), the national trade association for the industry, strongly believes that the legislation fails to prevent metal theft, while imposing onerous burdens on recyclers and their legitimate customers.

“ISRI supports federal theft legislation that works, but the bills introduced will not work. We advocate measures that prevent theft and prosecute thieves,” stated ISRI president Robin Wiener.

At a minimum, the bill must include penalties that target thieves, provide adequate incentives for local law enforcement training and establish regional coalitions to foster collaborative efforts between stakeholders, including law enforcement, victims and scrap recyclers.

The industry’s national theft alert system at www.ScrapTheftAlert.com, and training programs for law enforcement and recyclers, along with recommended scrap industry business practices demonstrate the industry’s ongoing commitment to preventing metal theft crime.

“Instead of targeting thieves, this bill places unwarranted blame on law-abiding businesses and provides little assistance to law enforcement,” said Wiener. “This legislation, as currently drafted, is unacceptable. However, we are willing to work with the Congress to achieve legislation that will effectively combat metal theft.”