House FAA Vote to Keep U.S. Competitive in Lithium Batteries

When the U.S. House passed H.R. 658, the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act, it also acted to prevent federal regulators from imposing unnecessarily burdensome and expensive rules on the shipping of lithium batteries as air cargo.

The important language contained in the bill:

SEC. 814. AIR TRANSPORTATION OF LITHIUM CELLS AND BATTERIES.

(a) In General.–The Administrator of the Federal Aviation 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 International Civil Aviation Organization Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air, 2009-2010 edition, as amended (including amendments adopted after the date of enactment of this Act).

(b) Exception.–Notwithstanding subsection (a), the Administrator may enforce the prohibition on transporting primary (nonrechargeable) lithium batteries and cells aboard passenger carrying aircraft set forth in special provision A100 of the table contained in section 172.102(c)(2) of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, as in effect on the date of enactment of this Act.

By harmonizing U.S. regulations with the international standards, the House protected both aviation safety and the continued competitiveness of major U.s. industries, not just battery manufacturers but also those companies that use the batteries, such as medical device manufacturers.

Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) had originally planned to offer language that would have made air shipments of lithium batteries almost impossible. The National Association of Manufacturers issued a Key Vote letter against the amendment, and in a news release argued, “Billions of lithium batteries are shipped via air cargo annually without incident. This flawed amendment would create massive disruptions in supply chains and postpone the delivery of life-saving medical devices and critical defense communication equipment.” Thankfully, Filner withdrew his amendment.

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association also hailed passage of the FAA bill with the lithium-battery provision.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Stan Wh says:

    This amendment still bans the shipping of primary lithium batteries, which are believed to be the cause of the UPS fire. Secondary batteries store less energy and are much safer.

  • Carter Wood says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. Captain Lampe was clearly a fine man.

    International standards are indeed strict, and UPS has also taken steps to respond to the accident.

    However, the proposed DOT regulation as well as the effectively banning of shipment of batteries, the impact of Rep. Filner’s amendment, would put lives at risk, as well. Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) raised the issue in his House comments on March 31:

    Mr. PAULSEN. Mr. Chair, I rise in strong support of the managers amendment.

    Currently, the Department of Transportation is working on a rule that would require finished medical devices and other products containing lithium batteries to be shipped as hazardous cargo.

    The rule would prevent medical devices, like this pacemakers, implantable defibrillators, and blood glucose monitors, from being shipped by air, until special packaging can be developed. We don’t know when this would be developed.

    These medical devices are heavily regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and undergo extensive testing to assure safety–including testing to ensure devices withstand the rigors of shipping.

    If the DOT rule passes, it would severely disrupt the medical device industry’s just-in-time delivery system, lead to bottlenecks in the supply chain, and prevent overnight or same-day shipping to patients all over the country even though these devices pose no demonstrable safety risk.

    It is important to note that the rule wouldn’t just negatively impact medical devices. It will also have a significant impact on shipping everyday technologies such as laptops and cell phones. All in all, the rule will cost more than a billion dollars annually.

    The rule would have a devastating impact on patient access to life-saving medical devices and will increase health care costs. Thankfully, the managers amendment remedies this situation, and I applaud Chairman MICA for his work.

  • Cindy Lampe says:

    As the wife of one of the pilots who lost his life in the recent UPS crash as a direct result of a lithium battery fire, I am appalled that anyone would oppose such an amendment. And can someone explain to me how this “protects aviation safety”?

    If transporting lithium batteries via cargo aircraft is so safe then why are regulations in place to prevent lithium batteries from being transported on passenger aircraft? Why do passenger aircraft have the necessary means to protect the crew and passengers from such a fire? Why is there not as much value placed on my husband’s life as well as other cargo pilots’ lives as is placed on the lives of passengers of a commercial airline?

    You cannot put a price on the life of my husband or any life for that matter. Whether it is one life, three hundred or more lives, the loved ones left behind suffer an enormous loss. And can I remind you that just because there are “only” two lives aboard a cargo aircraft, doesn’t mean there are not more lives at risk. Anyone of us could lose our lives if the aircraft were to go down in a well populated area. This is a very likely scenario. And almost happened in the UPS Dubai crash.

    I would have to ask anyone who opposes Filner’s amendment if they have ever flown in a cockpit filled with smoke so dense that they cannot see the instrument panel, thereby making it impossible to land the aircraft impossible. Would they even aboard an aircraft knowing that there was thousands of pounds of lithium batteries aboard the plane and knowing that they had no protection if a fire were to break out? Keep in mind, these batteries are very flammable. Add to that fact that we know there are safety measures that would give these pilots a fighting chance if there was a fire and yet because of the expense to install them, we look the other way and allow these pilots to continue to fly under such conditions. Unbelievable!

    I invite you to look my young children in the eye and explain to them that another child could lose his or her father or mother due to your lack of concern for human lives.

    Cindy Lampe

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