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Copper theft continues Copper craze threatens safety and realiability of CEC system


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f a lightning strike causes a power outage in your area, chances are a copper thief is to blame.


Copper and aluminum are the primary components of electric distribution lines, making Choctaw Electric Cooperative (CEC) and other utilities vulnerable to copper thieves.


“They find a remote rural area with 15 to 20 poles in a row, yank down our ground wire, tie it to the back of their pickup and takeoff,” said Jim Malone, CEC director of engineering and operations. “Without that ground wire, it means your transformers, meters and home appliances will take more surges.”


Copper theft is an epidemic across the nation, driven by the escalating price of copper on the scrap metal market. Since 2001, copper prices have risen 542 percent. In 2009, the price for copper was around $1.25 a pound; in April 2013 copper fetched around $3.05 a pound.


The Department of Energy estimates that coper wire theft costs the nation over $1 billion per year. For CEC, copper crime is costing the co-op thousands of dollars in additional labor repairs, while diminishing service reliability and safety for all involved. “It costs us a lot more to repair, than what the copper itself will ever bring,” Malone pointed out


Because copper theft targets transportation, communication and electricity networks, federal officials view copper crime as a threat to our nation’s infrastructure. Even Congress has stepped in. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, is proposing new legislation that would make stealing copper in some cases


a federal crime and would increase regulations on buying and selling it.


“I don’t think people realize what a problem this crime is. It has jumped more than 80 percent in recent years,” Klobuchar says.


The Oklahoma legislature has made the theft of copper wire with the intent to sell a felony. Anyone who is found guilty of this crime may face up to five years in prison and a fine up to $2,500.


Utilities are taking their own preventive measures. Two years ago, CEC began replacing its copper wire with copper clad steel cable, which is an effective conductor with far less scrap value to thieves. Malone explained that is also more difficult to cut and doesn’t roll easily, which makes is more difficult to steal.


CEC is also asking members to help. If you notice anything unusual with your electric facilities such as an open substation gates, open equipment, or hanging wire, contact Choctaw Electric immediately at 800-780-6486. If you see anyone around electric substations or electric facilities other than co-op personnel or contractors, please call 911 immediately.


There’s more than one way to pay your electric bill


Choctaw Electric Cooperative (CEC) provides several convenient bill payment options and payment plans. For more details on any of our payment options, please contact your CEC billing representative at 800-780-6486, or visit www.choctawelectric.coop.


Pay online at www.choctawelectric.coop. Using our secure payment site you can also view your account history, check your account balance, energy usage and more.


Budget Billing. With this option your energy usage is averaged over 11 months, helping you avoid seasonal high bills .


Automatic Payment Plan. Monthly bill payments are automatically withdrawn from your checking, savings, or credit card account.


After Hours Payments. Choctaw Electric offers a drive through window and/or payment drop box at CEC office locations in Hugo, Idabel and Antlers.


Authorized Payment Locations. Pay your bill at any of the following locations Monday through Friday during regular office hours.


• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •


First Bank & Trust, Idabel


McCurtain Co. National Bank, Idabel Choctaw Electric Cooperative, Idabel Idabel National Bank, Idabel First Bank, Antlers


Ameri State Bank, Antlers


Choctaw Electric Cooperative, Antlers First National Bank, Broken Bow First Bank and Trust, Broken Bow McCurtain Co. National Bank, Broken Bow Shamrock Bank, Clayton


Choctaw Electric Cooperative, Hugo First Bank, Hugo


First Bank and Trust, Hochatown First State Bank, Valliant


McCurtain Co. National Bank, Valliant First Bank and Trust, Wright City


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