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House muffles catalytic converter bill

House muffles catalytic converter bill

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Bismarck Police Sgt. John Brocker holds a vehicle catalytic converter that is being held in the department evidence locker.

A bill that was meant to cut down on crime by making it harder to sell catalytic converters was rejected with no debate March 19 by the North Dakota House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 2242 failed by a vote of 79-12. Nobody testified in favor of it. The House Transportation Committee on a 13-0 vote had recommended the bill not be passed.

The push behind the bill was to curb the theft of the converters by placing restrictions on who could buy or sell them. The anti-pollution devices are sought for the precious metals inside them, which remove pollutants from vehicle exhaust. Palladium, for example, was worth about $2,400 an ounce when the bill was introduced. That equates to about $85 per gram. Platinum at the time was valued at about $1,300 per ounce ($46 per gram), and rhodium at about $20,000 per ounce ($706 per gram).

Catalytic converters on cars and pickups will contain 2 to 6 grams of the metals. Vehicles with bigger engines could have as many as 30 grams. Recoverable amounts are smaller. Emission standards and cost of the metals determine the ratio in which the metals are used.

Thieves could have easily avoided restrictions in the bill, according to Rep. Cole Christensen, R-Rogers.

“All it would take is for somebody to cross the state lines to sell these catalytic converters to get around any law that we pass in North Dakota,” he told his House colleagues before the vote.

From September 2020 through January 2021, the Bismarck Police Department took 14 catalytic converter theft reports, according to Lt. Luke Gardiner. It’s unclear how many converters were stolen. Some thefts go unreported, and some reports might include the theft of multiple converters, he said.

Six catalytic converters were stolen in Mandan from June to October, Deputy Police Chief Lori Flaten said. Four other attempts were made but were unsuccessful.

Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com

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