PPL tries to crack down on copper thieves

By - Last modified: September 12, 2013 at 11:24 AM

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PPL Electric Utilities of Allentown this morning announced a reward program – and is bolstering security – in a bid to curb the increasing number of copper thefts from its substations, power lines and other facilities.

PPL said it is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of anyone stealing copper wire or other materials. The announcement was made at PPL's Allentown substation off Front Street in Allentown.

"We're starting this reward program to help stop copper thefts from substations, service centers, even existing power lines," said David Bonenberger, vice president of distribution operations for the utility. "Repair costs certainly are a factor, but ultimately, this is about safety. No one except qualified personnel wearing the appropriate protective equipment should be inside substations or be in contact with any of our facilities."

Substation thefts also can put customer service reliability at risk.

According to www.americanhvacparts.com, copper theft is costing businesses in the U.S. about $1 billion a year, and the FBI has said that copper theft is threatening critical infrastructure. The price of copper is about $3.25 per pound.

"Copper theft is an issue across the country for electric utilities, including PPL Electric Utilities," Joe Nixon, PPL spokesman, said this morning.

The utility is taking steps on its own — including bolstering substation security — to deter theft, and continues to reach out to salvage and scrap dealers throughout its 29-county service territory in eastern and central Pennsylvania and beyond.

As part of its anti-theft efforts, the utility will ask salvage and scrap dealers to display reward posters in their businesses.

"The costs of repairs in the aftermath of these thefts are ultimately shared by all customers," Bonenberger said. "The worst aspect of this vandalism and theft, however, is that someone could get seriously hurt or killed. Damaging electrical facilities also puts PPL Electric Utilities workers, and our contractors, at risk."

Bonenberger said the company, along with PPL Corporate Security, works with law enforcement to investigate metal thefts.

"We need the eyes and ears of the community, including metal scrap dealers, to help turn the tide," he said. "We hope the reward will spur tips to law enforcement and deter those who might be considering stealing copper."

Those observing suspicious activity around PPL Electric Utilities facilities are asked to call their local police department.

PPL Electric Utilities, a subsidiary of PPL Corp., provides electric delivery services to about 1.4 million customers in Pennsylvania.

Bill Kline

Bill Kline

Bill Kline is the editor of Lehigh Valley Business. Have a suggestion or question for him? Email him at billk@lvb.com.

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