New laws help co-ops work more safely and effectively

New laws help co-ops work more safely and effectively

Recent state legislation expands requirements to “move over” when driving next to a parked utility vehicle at work on the side of the road.

The state legislature and Gov. Bev Perdue in June enacted legislation that will help electric cooperatives serve their consumer-members more safely and effectively.

One of the new laws expands the conditions that require motorists to "move over," when it is safe to do so, while utility vehicles are working on the side of the road.

The other law strengthens existing law intended to prevent the theft of copper and other metals.

The so-called Move Over law now covers utility vehicles, including those of electric cooperatives, that are at any time "parked or standing within 12 feet of a roadway and giving a warning signal by appropriate light." Motorists must slow down and steer into a lane not adjacent to the working utility vehicle as long as it is safe to do so, then resume normal travel when they have passed the parked utility vehicle.

Beefing up the existing law against stealing copper was intended to make it more difficult for thieves to sell copper and for buyers to accept stolen copper.

Copper is used to ground electrical equipment, protecting it from electrical surges and lightning by giving electricity a safe path to the ground. Without proper grounding, anyone who comes into contact with the electric system could suffer electric shock strong enough to cause death. This includes cooperative employees, law-abiding citizens and even children.

Copper theft also compromises the electrical network and can cause outages that are disruptive for members and costly to businesses. Time and resources spent to repair damage caused to the system can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The expanded legislation now prohibits any cash payment for copper by recyclers to any seller. Also, recyclers must have a permit to be in business, and if a recycler does not comply with the law, the permit or license can be revoked. Recyclers are required to keep records of sellers dealing in metals. Furthermore, it is against the law for anyone to have more than 25 pounds of copper in a vehicle unless it's for work purposes, and metal sellers must present a valid ID at the time of sale. Co-ops routinely notify law enforcement when they have good reason to suspect copper theft.

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