ALEXANDRIA, Va.--(SLAB Watchdog calls on members of the committee to question Ms. McCarthy about the exportation and foreign recycling of Spent Lead Acid Batteries (SLABs).)--As the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee prepares for the nomination hearings of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency,
“With the recent publication of a study by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an EPA supported and NAFTA chartered organization, detailing the significant shortcomings of Mexican lead acid battery recyclers, there is no reason to delay action on SLAB exports”
“With the recent publication of a study by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an EPA supported and NAFTA chartered organization, detailing the significant shortcomings of Mexican lead acid battery recyclers, there is no reason to delay action on SLAB exports,” noted Diane L. Cullo, Director of SLAB Watchdog.
“Over the last couple of years, the Administration led by EPA and GSA has been active in establishing policies on the disposal and foreign recycling of electronic waste to prevent harm to the environment, workers and communities in which recycling facilities are located. The similarities between the damage caused by improper SLABs and E-waste recycling demand the EPA also take action on SLABs,” Cullo said.
“Ms. McCarthy’s track record of heading the EPA’s air and radiation office gives her an informed perspective on the environmental threat posed by hazardous lead emissions that result from dirty recycling. The Senate has a unique opportunity to ask specific and hard hitting questions from an expert in the field,” Cullo added.
The President’s commitment to climate change and environmental protection framed in his inaugural address has raised expectations among advocates that the President’s second term will include aggressive action on environmental issues. The growth of SLAB exports to developing countries, which now totals close to a billion pounds per year, has been facilitated by battery producers trying to avoid the higher recycling costs that have accompanied stronger regulations on domestic secondary lead smelters. This greater regulatory oversight, while critical to protecting American workers and communities, has had the unintended consequence of increasing the threat to the environment and poorer communities just across America’s southern border.
In 2012, the Obama Administration attempted to address substandard foreign battery recycling by working with ASTM International to implement a voluntary recycling standard for foreign recyclers handling U.S. batteries. The effort was quickly terminated after industry opposition essentially killed a vote on whether to proceed with developing the standard.
“Addressing this problem should be an easy first step in the Administration’s broader environmental effort. Because battery exports are driven by a handful of companies that have ramped up their activities over the last several years there are few entrenched interests or apologists for continuing exportations,” said Cullo. “The failure of last year’s voluntary process suggests the only way to curb the polluters is through aggressive government oversight and regulatory action. If the government stalls in the face of opposition from a handful of big battery businesses that export, what hope can we have that they will remain committed to solving our larger and more entrenched environmental challenges?”
It is critical that the Senate get Ms. McCarthy on the record about where she stands on foreign battery recycling. SLAB Watchdog’s questions for Senators to incorporate into the confirmation process follow:
- Last year the New York Times published a front-page expose of the dangers to Mexico from U.S. batteries. What can be done by the EPA to prevent the expansion of this harmful activity?
- What can the EPA do to prevent spent lead acid batteries purchased with taxpayer funds and generated by U.S. government vehicles and emergency backup systems from ending up in substandard foreign recycling facilities?
- What can EPA do to support the domestic recycling jobs in the face of a growing foreign industry a few hundred miles across the border that does not operate under the same environmental or occupational restrictions?
- Why has the Administration begun a policy of domestic recycling for the e-waste it generates, but has ignored SLAB recycling despite the similarities of the two issues?
SLAB Watchdog is committed to the safe and domestic recycling of spent lead-acid batteries (SLABs) and operates off of four basic principles: (1) Recycling of SLABs must occur in the United States by facilities that utilize the most advanced technologies that minimize environmental damage; (2) Transportation of SLABs must comply with federal regulations regarding the loading and bracing of SLABs to avoid damage and toxic spills; (3) Collection facilities should only use battery brokers who sign a memorandum of agreement committing to use domestic recyclers; (4) Federal, state and local governments must establish protocol to ensure that all SLABs generated by their vehicle fleets are recycled at domestic facilities.