IREA would like to reemphasize and clarify its policies regarding customer privacy and power use.
Our co-op has a duty to serve anyone who resides within our 5,000-squaremile service territory. We do so while also protecting customer confidentiality, which sometimes runs counter to the interests of other organizations, including law enforcement agencies combating illegal marijuana-growing operations.
These grow operations are often located within residential homes and typically require far more electricity than an average household uses in a month. The high monthly bills associated with such operations are perceived by some as a convenient indicator for law enforcement agencies attempting to identify possible illegal growers.
IREA’s policy, however, is to not voluntarily share customer billing information with third parties unless compelled via a warrant or subpoena. Our customers expect – and have the right to expect – that we will not voluntarily share their billing information. We provide an essential service that is not offered on condition that personal billing information is shared without customer consent.
Though IREA supports the work of law enforcement agencies and is sympathetic with their goal to eradicate unlawful marijuana growing operations, there are other issues that complicate the matter. Our field personnel require access to customers’ properties at any time, day or night, to address service interruptions. Their safety may be threatened if IREA is viewed as an extension of law enforcement. Our workers also do not enjoy the immunities from liability held by law enforcement.
IREA cooperates with law enforcement to the extent that it can without voluntarily providing customer information. We promptly and fully respond to subpoenas and warrants. We also dispatch personnel to disconnect power if we are advised by law or building enforcement personnel of a safety hazard or other issue that requires that action. If we are advised of a reasonable suspicion of power theft, we will investigate and share the results of that investigation if we find evidence of theft.