Pennsylvania law aims to deter scrap metal thefts from railroads

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A new law aims to improve public safety by making it harder for thieves to sell stolen railway materials and require stronger credentials to be a scrap dealer or recycler in Pennsylvania.

State Senator David Argall sponsored the measure, which received unanimous support in the Senate and overwhelming bipartisan support in the House of Representatives before being signed into law by Governor Tom Corbett.

The law adds railroad materials to the list of items that may only be sold to a scrap processor or recycler through a commercial entity, said Argall, adding that beer kegs, detached catalytic converters and construction materials are already prohibited from being sold by an individual.

"Without a strong deterrent, it was only a matter of time until thieves created a costly tragedy by stealing train tracks, rail spikes and ties," Argall said. "Considering the amount of material that is transported on our railways each day, the human and environmental impacts of a derailment could be catastrophic."

Argall said he learned of the problem from Schuylkill County-based Reading and Northern Railroad, which told him the company has been forced to step up security efforts to identify and prevent theft from its property, according to Argall.

Argall said his bill was amended to include language from a similar proposal by Representative Tina Davis, who represents Bucks County.

Davis' provision will require scrap processors and recycling facilities to register with the state police, directs the state police to post and maintain a statewide registry of scrap processors and recycling facilities on its website, and gives courts the authority to impound vehicles linked to scrap metal thefts.

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