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California Energy Commission Appoints Nine Members of Blue Ribbon Commission on Lithium Extraction

On December 9, 2020, the California Energy Commission (CEC) appointed nine members of the new Blue Ribbon Commission on Lithium Extraction in California (Lithium Valley Commission).  The appointments were made pursuant to Assembly Bill 1657 (Garcia, Chapter 271, 2020) (AB 1657), which was signed into law by Governor Newsom on September 29, 2020.

AB 1657 requires the CEC to establish the Lithium Valley Commission to review, investigate, and analyze issues and potential incentives regarding lithium extraction and use in California, and submit a report to the Legislature documenting its findings and recommendations, on or before October 1, 2022.  AB 1657 also authorizes the CEC to appoint nine of the 14 members of the Lithium Valley Commission.

The nine members appointed on December 9, 2020 include:

  1. Manfred Scott, Quechan Indian Tribe – General member.
  2. Jonathan Weisgall, Berkshire Hathaway Energy – Represents the lithium extraction industry.
  3. Roderic Dolega, Ford EV Purchasing – Represents a national vehicle manufacturer organization.
  4. Frank Ruiz, Salton Sea Program Director for Audubon California – Represents a local environmental organization.
  5. Ryan E. Kelley, County of Imperial – Represents a local city or county government in the Salton Sea geothermal resource area.
  6. James C. Hanks, Imperial Irrigation District – Represents a local public electric utility.
  7. Luis Olmedo, Comite Civico Del Valle, Inc. – Represents disadvantaged and low-income communities in the Salton Sea geothermal resource area.
  8. Arthur Lopez, Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians – Represents a local tribal community.
  9. Rod Colwell, Controlled Thermal Resources – Member with knowledge of economics and the effectiveness of local, state, and federal incentives.

The remaining five members of the Lithium Valley Commission are to be appointed by: (i) Governor Newsom; (ii) the California Natural Resources Agency; (iii) the California Public Utilities Commission; (iv) the Senate Committee on Rules; and (v) the Speaker of the Assembly.

These appointments signify the state’s latest efforts to transform California into a leading producer of lithium resources, an industry that is currently dominated by China and South America.  Because lithium is a naturally occurring mineral resource used to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure, the development of domestic lithium resources will play a critical role in the country’s ongoing efforts to reduce emissions.

In related news, the State Mining and Geology Board (SMGB) has announced a series of presentations on lithium development in California, including the mining of geothermal brines for lithium, scheduled for its December 17, 2020 meeting.  The SMGB agenda is available here: Official Notice of Public Meeting – State Mining and Geology Board.

Kerry Shapiro
Kerry Shapiro chairs the Natural Resources & Mining Practice Group at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. He has represented the mining, construction and building materials industries on mineral extraction and land development projects for more than 25 years. Kerry also serves as General Counsel to the California Construction and Industrial Materials Association (CalCIMA). Contact Kerry Shapiro at KShapiro@jmbm.com.

Martin Stratte
Martin Stratte is a land use and environmental attorney at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. He assists with the entitlement of complex projects throughout California in accordance with CEQA, NEPA, and California’s greenhouse gas emission and climate change regulations. He also represents clients in related litigation. Contact Martin at MStratte@jmbm.com.

JMBM’s Natural Resources & Mining Practice Group
Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP is home to some of California’s natural resources and mining and geothermal energy practice groups. The group is comprised of lawyers with over 25 years of practice in law firms, government, and consulting, and provides companies and trade associations with unparalleled counseling, compliance, and litigation services in nearly every area of federal and California natural resources and mining law.  Our clients include a wide range of industries, including hard rock mineral mining, common variety industrial and construction materials, water resources, and energy resources such as solar, wind, oil and gas, geothermal, and liquid natural gas.