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PRBA Statement on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Vote on AAIR (H.R. 4441)

Washington (February 11, 2016) – PRBA–The Rechargeable Battery Association applauds today’s vote by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to include the amended version of Section 615 in the Aviation, Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act.

Enactment of Section 615 will bolster the safe air transport of lithium batteries without disadvantaging American citizens or businesses. Committee Chair Bill Shuster merits special recognition for developing and supporting this important measure.

Despite the outrageous rhetoric of opponents, here’s the reality: The legislation voted out of committee will help ensure the safe air shipment of lithium batteries.

Importantly, the legislation allows the continued harmonization of lithium battery regulations with historically more stringent international requirements while directing Federal agencies to step up enforcement efforts.

Consistent international regulation maximizes safety. A babel of complex and inconsistent transportation regulations undermines safety and undercuts compliance.

Moreover, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has moved promptly and effectively to strengthen its regulations that apply to the air transport of lithium batteries. Expanded regulations will take effect as early as April 1. Section 615 directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to quickly incorporate the most recent ICAO requirements into U.S. law.

Many ICAO regulations, especially a rule limiting shipped lithium ion batteries to a 30 percent state of charge, address the safety concerns the Federal Aviation Administration raised in its recent Safety Alert for Operators. In fact, none of the dramatic FAA videos used to portray the risks associated with the shipment of lithium ion batteries depicted a lithium ion battery at 30 percent state of charge. And rigorous testing has shown a 30 percent state of charge limit significantly reduces the risks of lithium ion batteries in transport.

Even more important, enacting Section 615 will force federal agencies to push harder for strong international enforcement. DOT has in hand considerable evidence that many overseas shippers are not complying with existing rules. But DOT has resisted PRBA’s repeated requests that the department push for stronger enforcement. Enactment of Section 615 should overcome that resistance.

Shipments from parts of Asia are a particular concern. And there is no reason to expect scofflaws to comply with even tighter regulations unless they fear criminal penalties and business disruption.  Section 615 directs the Secretary of Transportation to increase U.S. pressure to see that all shippers, from anywhere in the world, either comply with the rules or are punished.

Notably, nothing in this provision restricts the existing authority of U.S. transportation regulators to adopt emergency battery safety regulations in the unlikely event of ICAO recalcitrance if they are truly merited. That power was granted under the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act, with PRBA’s support.

Section 615 contains other valuable provisions. For example, the section mandates a formal, balanced Federal Advisory Committee capable of promptly informing government and other stakeholders of new technologies, including fire suppression advances. The Committee will also assure open consideration of U.S. government policy.

With the Committee’s favorable action, we look forward to prompt action on the floor of the House and in the U.S. Senate.

About PRBA

PRBA members power the consumer electronics revolution. We deliver a safe, efficient, and essential power source for portable electronic equipment such as notebook computers, tablets, cellular phones and power tools, medical devices as well as hybrid and electric vehicles and containerized lithium ion battery stationary systems. PRBA members produce approximately 70 percent of the world’s lithium ion cells and account for billions of dollars in annual worldwide sales. With more than 70 members, PRBA is widely recognized as the nation’s authoritative source for information on rechargeable batteries.