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NEMA Welcomes Congressional Passage of Provision on Lithium Battery Air Shipments
by Staff Writers
Rosslyn VA (SPX) Feb 15, 2012

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NEMA has welcomed the passage by the U.S. Senate of legislation directing the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to ensure that most U.S. regulations governing air shipment of lithium batteries are harmonized with standards written by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The legislation also covers products that contain or are packed with lithium ion or lithium metal batteries.

On February 6, the Senate approved the conference report for HR 658, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act, in a bipartisan 75-20 vote. The House approved the bill on February 3 by a 248-169 vote. The House first approved legislation containing the provision on April 1, 2011.

"After months of tough negotiations on many issues in the FAA bill we are gratified that Rep. John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, have lead their counterparts to a compromise that meets industry demands for U.S. harmonization with international safety standards," said NEMA President and CEO Evan R. Gaddis.

NEMA represents the leading U.S. manufacturers of lithium metal batteries as well as many electroindustry companies that use lithium ion and lithium metal batteries in their products and equipment. NEMA is participating in ICAO meetings this week to determine if more stringent global rules are needed for lithium battery shipments on aircraft.

Specifically, the legislation requires that DOT agencies, including FAA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, may not issue or enforce any regulation or other requirement regarding the transportation by aircraft of lithium metal cells or batteries or lithium ion cells or batteries, whether transported separately or packed with or contained in equipment, if the requirement is more stringent than the requirements of the ICAO Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air.

One exception from this requirement is the maintenance of the U.S. prohibition since 2004 of air shipment of lithium metal cells and batteries on passenger aircraft leaving, entering or within the U.S. or operated by a U.S. carrier.

A second exception allows the Secretary of Transportation to issue and enforce an emergency regulation that is more stringent than the ICAO requirements if that regulation addresses deficiencies referenced in a credible report of a safety incident that demonstrates lithium batteries or equipment transported in accordance with the ICAO standards substantially contributed to the start or spread a fire onboard an aircraft.

After one year, the Secretary may convert the emergency rules into a permanent regulation under certain conditions.

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