Grease theft penalties among new laws for the new year
The last batch of laws from the 2012 General Assembly session go into effect Jan. 1. Starting in 2013, stealing more than $1,000 worth of grease will be a felony. Biofuel producers say they hope the new law will spur more enforcement.Posted — Updated
"What was once garbage and had virtually no value is now a commodity that people are stealing," said Rep. John Torbett, R-Stanley.
- more stringent background check requirements for those who work in daycare settings. (HB 737)
- towns, cities and counties with between 100 and 500 workers must now use the federal E-verify program to make sure those they are hiring are in the United States legally. Local governments with more than 500 workers had to start doing this on Oct. 1. (HB 36)
- doctors and groups based out of state that provide free health care services will have legal protections when they operate in North Carolina. (HB 614)
"Some judges were treating it just as a, 'What are you doing in my courtroom?' kind of thing," Torbett said.
Under the law Torbett sponsored, grease collectors will have to carry liability insurance and provide certain paperwork that establishes ownership of the grease. Those who steal grease worth less than $1,000 would be guilty of a misdemeanor. Those who steal more than $1,000 worth of grease would be guilty of a low level felony.
In North Carolina, small bio fuels producers used leftover grease to create biodiesel that can be used to run specially equipped automobiles or home heating systems.
"We feel like we've lost $10,000 worth of product in the past six months," said Woodrow Eaton, a co-founder of Blue Ridge BioFuels, a company based in Asheville that picks up grease from restaurants throughout Western North Carolina and part of South Carolina. "We're paying the restaurants based on the volume of grease we collect," Eaton said. Theft, he said, costs both his company money by wasting time and depriving it of raw materials, but costs restaurants money they're not getting from the sale of the grease.
"We haven't had any luck ourselves catching anyone. We're hoping law enforcement might take in more seriously" as a result of the new law," he said.
Biodiesel producers, he said, are worth the projection because they're the only domestic producers of liquid fuel in the state. "It's biodegradable, it's non-toxic...The industry has a huge amount of benefit to the state."
But not all biofuel producers are convinced the new law will be helpful.
"We call it the grease police bill," said Lyle Estill, president of Piedmont Biofuels based in Chatham County. His company collects grease from restaurants throughout the Triangle. "This bill doesn't do anything about the people who are stealing grease," he said. He said the bill will help big rendering companies at the expense of hobbyist and others who collect and use or sell small batches of grease.
"Imagine the teacher who would collect the used grease from the school cafeteria once a week and sell it to my company. He'll no longer be able to do that...It will have no impact but it will shift the playing field in favor of big (companies)," Estill said.
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