Among more than a half-dozen new pieces of legislation that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law at the end of last month, two laws aimed at curbing the spike in metal thefts from utilities, municipalities and farm equipment suppliers (AB 844 and SB 691) were prioritized as the most important new laws for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), according to one of the utility’s managers in Sacramento.

For the utility sector overall, a new law allowing cities to credit excess renewable generation at one location and apply it to another account (AB 2466) was a high-priority, according to the PG&E official, as was a bill tying greenhouse gas emissions reductions to land-use planning and urban sprawl (SB 375).

New requirements and protections to deal with the metal theft issue were “the most significant bills for us,” the PG&E official said. Schwarzenegger signed a package of four bills on the metal theft issue, with two of them addressing the problem for utilities, particularly the increased theft of copper wire.

“Not only are these crimes destroying property and causing millions of dollars in damages, they are endangering lives,” Schwarzenegger said. “We must put a stop to these growing crimes, and this package of bills will provide law enforcement with the tools they need to put these thieves behind bars.”

Noting that the market value of both copper and aluminum increased significantly from 2004 to 2005, Schwarzenegger said California experienced a corresponding sharp increase in the incidents of metal theft since then. All sectors of the economy, including utilities, have seen increased thefts of metal equipment and supplies.

AB 844 is aimed at putting an end to the ability of thieves to turn the contraband metals into quick cash by requiring recyclers to hold payment for three days, check a photo identification and take a thumb print of anyone selling scrap metals.

The other bill that Schwarzenegger signed into law last Tuesday, SB 691, requires recyclers to take thumb prints of individuals selling copper, copper alloys, aluminum and stainless steel. Sellers also are required to show a government identification and proof of their current address. Revocation of licenses, fines and jail time are all part of possible penalties under the new laws.

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