December 14, 2017

DeFazio Introduces Legislation to Strengthen Safety of Air Transportation of Lithium Batteries

DeFazio Introduces Legislation to Strengthen Safety of Air Transportation of Lithium Batteries


Washington, D.C.—Today, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced H.R. 4643, the Safe Air Transport of Hazardous Materials Act of 2017, legislation that provides the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with authority to regulate hazardous materials transported onboard aircraft and eliminates barriers to the United States regaining its leadership role in regulating the safety of lithium cells and batteries onboard passenger and cargo aircraft.

Under current law, the FAA Administrator does not have the authority to regulate the transportation of hazardous materials. The DeFazio legislation repeals this prohibition, together with a statute enacted in 2012 by a Republican Congress that prohibits the United States from setting standards for air transportation of lithium batteries that exceed International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards unless there has been an accident. It also requires the FAA to serve as the lead U.S. representative on the Dangerous Goods Panel (DGP) of ICAO.

“With the Christmas travel season fast approaching and a growing number of laptops, mobile devices, and even toys with lithium batteries being carried on airplanes, we cannot afford to ignore the danger of lithium batteries. It is indefensible that Republicans in Congress have tied the FAA’s hands by preventing it from setting higher standards, unless there is another accident. And to make matters worse, the Secretary of Transportation recently demoted the FAA from serving as the lead U.S. representative on the ICAO Dangerous Good Panel and replaced it with PHMSA, an agency that is well-known for its dysfunction, ineffectiveness, and coziness with the industry it is charged with regulating. My legislation mandates that the FAA, the world’s foremost expert on aviation safety, remain the lead and continue to represent U.S. interests, and push to improve international safety standards. My bill also repeals a statute that ties the hands of American safety regulators by preventing them from properly regulating lithium batteries to protect the traveling public. We shouldn’t have to wait for another lithium-battery-fed fire on an airplane to kill more people for the Federal government to act to protect the flying public,” DeFazio said.

The FAA—not PHMSA—leads the world in aviation safety and in testing packages and containers used for transporting dangerous goods on aircraft and evaluating the control of fires. PHMSA, on the other hand, has repeatedly demonstrated its coziness with industry representatives that strongly oppose the regulation of lithium cells and batteries and other dangerous goods, and worked to combat FAA safety proposals at ICAO meetings and within the Department. PHMSA was removed as the lead U.S. representative on the ICAO DGP in 2010, and the FAA assumed that role. In October 2017, the Secretary of Transportation removed the FAA and reinstated PHMSA as the lead U.S. representative on the ICAO DGP.