April 28, 2023: Roger Miksad, the new president of BCI, presented a round up of Battery Council International’s work when he took to the stage on the first morning of the council’s annual convention in Louisville, Kentucky on April 24.
Although the full title of his address — The BCI Regulatory and Advocacy Update — sounds a bit of a gloomy mouthful, it should really be recognized as something more akin to a Battery State of the Union speech. The picture Miksad painted was part positive, BCI has clearly been successful in many initiatives this year, but was also set in the context of a background of darkening regulatory landscape.
However, he said ongoing engagement with those who shape the laws impacting the lead battery industry was bearing fruit and policymakers were increasingly aware of the importance of ensuring long-standing lead battery manufacturers are supported alongside newer chemistries on the market.
Miksad hailed BCI’s involvement in shaping the USA Batteries Act as being one of the association’s big successes.
The legislation, passed in 2023, would remove what he described as pernicious taxes on substances used in lead battery manufacturing and which gave foreign manufacturers an unfair advantage on the cost of raw materials. BCI successfully organized a coalition of representatives, including Pennsylvania’s Dan Meuser, in support of the legislation.
BCI was stepping up its engagement with the big government guns. “We’re also engaging with the Department of Energy whose staff have been candid in public and private about the fact that there is so much money coming into the industry they are finding it difficult to spend it. Hardly an issue to worry about but more as to where the funding is going.
‘We’re engaged — from the research staff all the way up to the energy secretary’s office — that lead batteries are included in those programs,” he said.
“Lead deserves a bigger share of DoE’s pie and we need to remain in there demanding a fair and equitable investment for our industry, because if we don’t show up and ask for that money we simply won’t be given it.”
Miksad said environmental, health and safety issues are probably the biggest threat to the lead battery industry at the moment. The three biggest EPA regulations for lead are currently under review. There are others out there that would have an impact but the most immediate that need to be dealt with include the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), which regulates the amount of lead that is allowed to come out of a chimney stack.
“BCI had a great victory on this one. We were able to get the EPA to pull back from almost every proposed rule that was objectionable and unnecessary. They really did respond to the industry’s concerns. We didn’t get everything we asked for, but it was good.”
“For example. the proposed rule would have included in its scope any facility that made a lead battery component that went into a finished battery, such as small parts. We got them to roll that back so now it only applies to component part facilities ort input material facilities that use specific lead processes such as oxide mills, pasting and plate casting operations, not for small parts and other components that really don’t have an emissions profile.”
Another issue to be faced is the national ambient air quality standard. He described the almost impossible task of reacting to a 2,000 page report in a couple of months that might be put into force as early as 2025 saying that BCI had enjoyed close support from scientists at the International Lead Association. “We’ve still got a way to go but we’re going to get there,” said Miksad.
One interesting note — and what some people had been fearing for many years — is that the immediate pace of change was no longer coming from Washington State and he said BCI is focusing on California — an area where BCI has had a long involvement. Miksad noted that despite being involved in protracted conversations there was little interest in policymakers in seeing how rules could be implemented. “It’s a problem,” he said.
As part of this the thorny issue of blood lead levels continues to pre-occupy the regulatory landscape — even though as his charts showed the lead battery business has proven itself adept at being ahead of the curve.
He discussed the almost impossibility of removing lead from blood at the levels being sought and the huge cost that would mean for the industry.
It is a startling figure. Compliance with proposed legislation could, in some instances, cost around 45% of profits every year for 10 years. It would be unfair to say there was a concerted groan from the audience but it was hard not to be shocked by presentation of such a stark figure.