Railroad track segment. Image credit:Flickr, by boulanger.IE
Bogus metals recycling has been a topic of interest on TreeHugger since 2007. Once the easy metal pickings get scarfed up, demand for even a base metal like steel will eventually return, tempting thievery that is occasionally amplified by the idiotic desperation of meth-addled thinking. Metal thieves would also have to be sociopaths to steal segments of actively used railroad
"Idiots," Smith, 52, said of whoever used a welding torch to cut away the steel rail.
"They have no regard for anyone's safety. Imagine if it punctured a fuel tank or if it was hazmat (hazardous material)," he said.
Evidence suggests the thieves -- railroad personnel said it would have taken two or more people to lift each 900-pound segment -- were cutting away another portion when they decided to flee.
For those of you too young to remember the 80's, sham recycling caused huge problems back then. Hundreds of poorly run chemical waste recycling businesses resulted in multiple fires and explosions - a danger experienced in most states - many of which became today's Superfund cleanup sites. Communities were evacuated and lives were lost. Taxpayers had to foot the bill for first response and cleanup. The accumulated costs to public and private sectors were immense and continue to accrue.
EPA cut back on sham chem waste recycling by implementing very stringent regulatory requirements for hazardous waste storage, collection, distribution, and treatment, as spelled out in the Federal Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA). Government regulation wins again! (This is one of the ongoing EPA success stories that today's Republican party pretends does not even exist - even though a great many, perhaps even a majority of Republicans once supported RCRA.)
Solution to metal theft
I can see no way out of the metal theft issue other than to have the Federal government register, license, inspect, and hold accountable upstream metal recovery and transportation businesses (most scrap yards are already licensed at the state and local level). Handing the responsibility off to states won't work because it would leave an opening for meth-headers and ordinary thieves to cross state boundaries with their heavy metal plunder.
Tea Party commenters...have at it!