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With Energy Package on Senate Floor, King Introduces Groundbreaking Battery Recycling Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Energy and Natural Resource Committee (ENR), announced that he has introduced the Battery and Critical Mineral Recycling Act of 2020. This commonsense legislation aims to incentivize the recycling of rechargeable and electrochemical batteries – including lithium ion and other chemistries – needed to meet the United States’ growing clean energy needs and decrease dependence on critical mineral imports. In a letter to ENR leadership last week, Senator King advocated for the inclusion of this bill in a legislative package intended to invest in clean energy technologies and reduce carbon emissions.

“Critical minerals like lithium and cobalt are vital to developing clean energy technology – and the good news here is that we have these materials on hand already, from old phone and computer batteries in the desk drawers of American homes and offices,” said Senator King. “Why pay the economic and environmental cost of importing these minerals from countries like China, when we could meet a large portion of our need by simply encouraging the American people to turn-in their old batteries to be recycled back into the industry. This act is a key step towards reducing waste, developing clean energy technology, and revolutionizing the way we produce and utilize critical minerals.”

According to the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Interior (DOI), the U.S. relies on imports for a majority of the critical minerals necessary to sustain economic and national security. Additionally, the U.S. has developed a growing desire for clean energy technologies like wind, solar, hydrogen, and electricity systems – all of which require significant material resources sourced from critical minerals. Energy storage and electric vehicles in particular will require a growing source of lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite. Currently, a majority of these critical mineral imports are sourced from China, and strengthening battery recycling and reuse programs is a viable approach to reducing demand for these imported materials.

Specifically, Senator King’s bill:

  • Incentivizes battery and critical mineral recycling through three grant programs:
  • Research and development. Grants aim to support innovative approaches to increase the reuse and recycling of batteries by addressing recycling processes; battery design that facilitates the dismantling, reuse, and recovery of battery components and materials; strategies to increase participation in battery recycling; and the integration of increased quantities of recycled materials in batteries to aid development of markets.
  • Retail collection points. Grants to support the establishment of retail collection points to increase the acceptance and collection of used batteries for reuse, recycling, or proper disposal.
  • Federal matching funds for state and local governments. Funds would establish or enhance state battery collection, recycling, and reprocessing programs.
  • Reauthorizes the DOE’s Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize competition. The bill provides additional funding for pilot projects.
  • Directs the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide best practices. The EPA shall develop best practices for the collection of batteries that may be cost-effectively implemented by States and local governments in coordination with state and local leaders and relevant private sectors.
  • Develops a voluntary labeling program. This bill would establish a voluntary labeling program modeled after Energy Star to promote battery recycling and to identify collection points in order to reduce battery waste, improve collection, and reduce safety concerns due to improper disposal.
  • Establishes a task force on producer requirements. The bill directs the U.S. Secretary of Energy to convene a task force to develop an extended battery producer responsibility framework that suggests regulatory pathways for effective recycling and life-cycle management of battery materials.

A forceful advocate for clean energy solutions wherever they can be found, Senator King is a founding member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. Senator King emphasized the need for a “stronger and more thoroughgoing recycling program” for batteries in a September hearing of the ENR Committee. He is also the lead sponsor on a range of bills that encourage energy efficiency and research on clean energy technologies, such as the Joint Long-Term Storage Act, which seeks to speed up deployment of long-duration energy storage technologies through strategic collaboration between federal agencies. He is a cosponsor of the Renewable Electricity Standard Act of 2019 which would put the U.S. on a trajectory to decarbonize the power sector by 2050, and the Clean Economy Act which would address the need for bold climate action and at the same time boosts American competitiveness, promotes healthier communities and fosters a growing economy that works for everyone. Senator King focused the December 2019 edition of Inside Maine on the impact of climate change in Maine, as well as emerging bipartisan solutions to address this global existential crisis. In July, Senator King took to the Senate floor to urge bold and meaningful action to mitigate the threat of climate change. He also continues to speak out to encourage the administration to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and reaffirm U.S. leadership in the fight against global climate change.

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