For Immediate Release: December 1, 2022
Findings and Recommendations Provide Pathway for Governor Newsom’s Lithium Valley Vision
SACRAMENTO — In a crucial milestone toward making California a global leader in the production of lithium, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Lithium Extraction in California (Lithium Valley Commission) submitted its report of findings and recommendations to the state Legislature today. The report recommends accelerating transmission planning, improving permitting, and securing funding for infrastructure investments and economic development incentives to support industry growth and job training.
Established by Assembly Bill 1657 in September 2020, the Commission was created to explore opportunities and challenges surrounding lithium recovery from geothermal brines in Imperial County as world demand soars.
“I am proud of all the work the Commission has done to meet our obligations and deliver this report to the state legislature,” said Blue Ribbon Commission Chair Silvia Paz. “The findings and recommendations serve as an essential record and guide as the exploration of a lithium industry in the Salton Sea region continues. Most importantly, this process expanded engagement with our communities and Tribal governments that can deliver benefits for years to come.”
Since January 2021, the Blue Ribbon Commission has held more than 20 public meetings to gather information, host discussions, and hear public comments to inform the report. Last month, Commissioners approved the final report, which details key findings and makes 15 recommendations. The report also includes priorities and perspectives from Tribal governments and residents of the region.
They also recommend a water study, health impact analysis for Eastern Coachella Valley, and ongoing community and Tribal engagement using plain language and best practices.
Governor Gavin Newsom has outlined his Lithium Valley Vision, positioning the state to become a global leader in the deployment of new technologies and environmental protections that can sustainably recover lithium through technology that can be colocated with renewable energy generation from geothermal power plants. Experts estimate the region could satisfy up to one-third of today’s global lithium demand. Governor Newsom is committed to building out a world-class battery manufacturing ecosystem in tandem with lithium production and processing that would increase economic opportunity and deliver quality jobs and community benefits to the region.
“The Lithium Valley Commission we created put locals first, empowering our community to give direction and create their vision for regional lithium opportunities,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, author of Assembly Bill 1657 and Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on California’s Lithium Economy. “Through a collaborative process, the voices of residents, environmental justice advocates, Tribal members, and other essential stakeholders have introduced a roadmap to protect local interests while prioritizing and maximizing community co-benefits of this emerging industry. We greatly appreciate all who contributed to this report and are excited to put these community-driven recommendations into action.”
The final report reflects input on the initial draft received during the 30-day public comment period and during discussions held during public meetings and a series of community and tribal meetings. The meetings, hosted in Niland, North Shore and Salton City, included translated materials and simultaneous Spanish and Purépecha interpretation to support access and engagement.
“The California Energy Commission (CEC) is pleased to have supported the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission, and I applaud the Commissioners for their dedicated service,” said CEC Commissioner Kourtney Vaccaro. “We look forward to staying engaged and remain committed to supporting the development of the lithium recovery industry in a way that uplifts all.”
State Support for Lithium Production to Support Clean Energy Goals
The U.S. government considers lithium to be one of 35 critical minerals vital to the nation’s security and economic prosperity. Global lithium demand is expected to grow substantially over the next decade, driven largely by increasing demand for lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles and stationary energy storage for the electricity sector. These technologies are key to California’s clean energy and transportation goals as the state works to phase out gasoline-powered vehicles and fossil fuel-based electricity.
To support the state’s emerging lithium industry and ensure community benefits, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 208 in June 2022, which provides $5 million to Imperial County for environmental review and community engagement, and creates the Lithium Extraction Tax Law. The new law will help promote a robust California-based industry that considers the needs of Imperial Valley communities where the lithium extraction occurs, while recognizing the significant benefit of having a domestic supply of lithium.
Additionally, since 2017 the CEC has awarded more than $27 million to nearly 20 research projects to advance innovations for lithium recovery from geothermal brines, the processing of manufacturing grade lithium, and the efficient use of lithium in batteries, as well as other related research, planning and development efforts.
This funding includes multiple awards investing well over $15 million in for the research and development of technologies that enable lithium recovery from geothermal brine. Projects include demonstration and pilot-scale facilities and technical and economic evaluation of the lithium extraction process.
About the California Energy Commission
The California Energy Commission is leading the state to a 100 percent clean energy future. It has seven core responsibilities: developing renewable energy, transforming transportation, increasing energy efficiency, investing in energy innovation, advancing state energy policy, certifying thermal power plants, and preparing for energy emergencies.