| SACRAMENTO, Calif.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. Jan 30 California is trying
to find new ways to catch thieves who steal used cooking grease
from restaurants in hopes of making money by selling it to
companies that turn it into alternative biofuels.
Citing a rise in such thefts, state Assemblyman Chris Holden
said on Thursday he had introduced a bill in the state
legislature to allow California Highway Patrol officers to pull
over the typically unmarked pumper trucks that thieves use to
carry such oil and demand to see paperwork proving that it is
"The theft of used cooking oil (Inedible Kitchen Grease or
IKG) from restaurants is on the rise in California," the state
Department of Food and Agriculture says on its website. "It has
become a major crime in our cities and counties."
Like copper, the state says, the grease has value as a
commodity, and is often sold by restaurateurs to make extra
money. Legitimate haulers also try to turn a profit by agreeing
to remove the waste from restaurant sites and sell it to
rendering companies, which turn it into usable fuel such as
The state's website shows a picture of a red pickup truck
with an unmarked cylindrical container in its bed, which the
website said is an image of a black-market hauler siphoning
grease from a container into which it has been placed by a
As currently written, Holden's bill would provide for
penalties of up to $10,000 for those convicted of stealing the
grease, which the state Department of Food and Agriculture says
is worth about $600 per truckload.
The Pasadena Democrat's bill would also allow the CHP to
confiscate the trucks of drivers who do not carry the necessary
Holden's spokeswoman, Wendy Gordon, said she was not certain
whether the high penalties would remain in the bill as it makes
its way through the legislative process. But she said the thefts
are becoming more common as biofuels increase in popularity.
It is already illegal to steal the grease in California,
because restaurateurs do not want black marketeers on their
property, and some hope to profit from its sale themselves.
Others are glad to have it towed away, entering into contracts
with legitimate haulers who themselves are counting on the
income from selling it.
Food and Agriculture officials run a hotline - complete with
a $500 reward - that citizens can call if they suspect thieves
are slipping away with someone else's goo.
Selling one's own used grease is perfectly legal in the
state, and many restaurants contract with haulers who take it
away and earn profits when they sell it to rendering companies.
What's not lawful is to steal the grease from a restaurant or
Gordon said the Food and Agriculture Department, which has
jurisdiction over the grease, is limited in its ability to
enforce the law. Holden's bill, she said, would make the law
easier to enforce.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Cynthia Johnston,