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Industry Coalition Urges OMB to Approve Rule Enhancing Safe Air Transport of Lithium Batteries

PRBA–The Rechargeable Battery Association, with other trade groups, manufacturers and transportation companies, has urged the Office of Management and Budget to “act promptly” and finish its review of U.S. Department of Transportation regulations that would advance safety goals by harmonizing U.S. requirements for the air transport of lithium batteries with tougher international rules.

In a January 10 letter to the director of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), 24 coalition members noted that DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) safety regulation was initiated four years ago, in January 2010. PHMSA’s proposal proved controversial and was followed by new and improved regulatory efforts in April 2012 and January 2013. “It is now time for this proceeding to be completed,” the letter stated.

PHMSA’s final rule is expected to harmonize U.S. hazardous materials regulations addressing the air transport of lithium batteries with the 2013-2014 rules established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the letter said. “We strongly believe that this would enhance safety by avoiding the burdens of complying with multiple and inconsistent safety requirements,” the letter added.

As a result, the PHMSA regulation is “both sound policy” and meets the requirements of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, including PHMSA’s continued prohibition on the transport of lithium metal batteries on passenger aircraft, the letter emphasized.

“We see no reason why OIRA should delay its promulgation and publication in the Federal Register,” the letter added, if PHMSA’s final rule harmonizes U.S. regulations with international air transport regulation and the agency, as expected, adopts several changes advocated by the industry coalition.

A copy of the coalition letter can be downloaded here.

New Lithium Metal Battery Air Transport Regulations to be Considered at First International Lithium Battery Transport Coordination Meeting

The ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel plans to hold meetings in February and April 2014 to consider new air transport restrictions on lithium metal batteries. The first meeting is scheduled for February 4 – 6, 2014 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. According to ICAO, the primary purpose of this “First International Lithium Battery Transport Coordination Meeting” is to review the air transport of lithium metal batteries in Classes C and E aircraft cargo compartments and develop recommendations that will provide “the international aviation community with an acceptable level of risk and afford the battery industry the least possible burden in implementation.”

The main objectives are:

  • to provide information, based on areas of expertise, on aircraft fire protection systems and their effects on mitigating the risks of lithium metal batteries via presentations or information;
  • to provide meeting participants with information on the risks lithium metal batteries present in air transport;
  • to become the resource of multidisciplinary knowledge and information on the air transport of lithium metal batteries as cargo in Classes C and E cargo compartments;
  • to review, discuss and develop, as needed, draft standards for lithium metal batteries shipped in Classes C and E aircraft cargo compartments; and
  • to provide recommendations for updated information on the risks associated with the transport of lithium metal batteries and mitigation strategies determined to be appropriate.

The full terms of reference for the meeting can be downloaded here.

PRBA will be represented at the meeting by Executive Director George Kerchner. Please contact Mr. Kerchner at 202.719.4109 or gkerchner@wileyrein.com for more information.