Thursday, August 18, 2016

PHMSA Sends New Lithium Battery Rule to OMB

Yesterday the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) announced that it had received an interim final rule from the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration amending the Hazardous Materials Regulation (HMR) provisions for the shipment of lithium batteries. This rulemaking appeared for the first time in the Spring 2016 Unified Agenda.

According to the Unified Agenda abstract:

“This action would amend the Hazardous Materials Regulations to incorporate three amendments that impact the transport regulations for packaged lithium cells and batteries not packed with or contained in equipment. These amendments would: (1) prohibit the transport of lithium ion cells and batteries as cargo aboard passenger carrying aircraft; (2) limit lithium ion cells and batteries to a 30 percent state of charge; and (3) limit the number of packages that may be offered under current provisions for small (excepted) cells and batteries to not more than one package per consignment. We anticipate these amendments will result in temporary supply chain disruptions [emphasis added] but will produce immediate safety benefits by eliminating vulnerability in the existing transport regulations.”

The same high energy density that has led to the ubiquitous use of lithium batteries is also a major contributor to the fires that have resulted during shipment and use of these batteries. It will be interesting to see if OIRA allows PHMSA to go directly to an interim final rule on this rulemaking this late in the life of this Administration. While safety, not politics, is almost certainly the impetus for the rulemaking, we can expect to hear cries of ‘midnight regulations’ if this rule is issued without the normal publish and comment process.

Note: I do not expect to provide any future coverage of this rulemaking on this blog.

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