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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Schumer bill targets metal theft from railroads, other infrastructure


U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is calling on Congress to pass a bill that would crack down on metal theft — such as last week's copper theft along MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) lines — from critical infrastructure.

Last week's theft of 500 feet of copper cable along the NYCT A and C lines was taken from 12 locations along the track. Signal equipment and track also was damaged. The theft disrupted subway service, delaying travel for tens of thousands of commuters.

Due to the high price of iron, copper, and other metal, New York City has seen a significant number of scrap metal burglaries and larcenies in the area, including multiple cases involving Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) rail lines over the past few years. The problem has become so severe that an FBI report called metal theft "a threat to public safety and to U.S. critical infrastructure," Schumer said in a press release.

His proposed legislation would require people selling scrap metal to dealers document that they own the metal or are authorized to sell it; require recyclers to keep detailed records of metal purchases; cap the amount at $100 in cash that recyclers can pay for scrap metal; and make stealing metal from infrastructure a federal crime.

"Every ounce of copper or metal stolen from New York's critical infrastructure could cause the next big commuter delay, a subway line suspension or even a disaster," Schumer said in a press release. "That’s why this plan must be enacted — because it takes the cold-hard-cash incentive out of the metal theft equation and would deter metal thieves before they steal."

Schumer is co-sponsoring the legislation with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

The incident on the NYCT line was not the first time that copper theft along a rail line led to delays. In October 2014, a Hicksville, N.Y., man was arrested for stealing copper cable along an MTA Long Island Rail Road line in eight locations. In one location, the theft led to a small track fire.

And in December 2014, about 40 MTA Metro-North Railroad trains were delayed after signal cables were vandalized for copper at the Williams Bridge Station in Norwood, N.Y.