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Bills in state Senate would further regulate battery storage and disposal

State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, is pictured on the floor of the Illinois Senate last year.
Jerry Nowicki
Capitol News Illinois
State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, is pictured on the floor of the Illinois Senate last year.

Two bills that would regulate battery disposal and storage are awaiting action from the full Illinois Senate after unanimous committee approval.

Senate Bill 3481, sponsored by Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, would require facilities that store electric vehicle batteries to register with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency by February 2026. The state’s Pollution Control Board would set the regulations for the proper storage of EV batteries.

IEPA Deputy Director James Jennings said the change “parallels” a state program for used tires.

“The primary distinction is that there are going to be some battery storage locations that don't accept tires,” he said. “And historically speaking, those have been the sites that have been more prone to fires,” he said.

Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said she had concerns about fire safety as lithium batteries were the cause of a fire in Morris onJune 29, 2021. The fire prompted intervention from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Witnesses who testified at a committee hearing on the bills earlier this month said registered and regulated facilities practicing proper storage procedures would limit the risk of fires.

Senate Bill 3686, sponsored by Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, would require battery producers and importers to implement an IEPA approved battery stewardship plan starting in 2026. Retailers would be encouraged — but not required — to serve as collection facilities.

The plan would regulate the disposal, storage and recycling of certain removable batteries and portable batteries. The bill applies to most types of batteries, with some exceptions. These include liquid electrolyte batteries and lead-acid batteries, like those used in cars.

It would also regulate “medium-format” batteries, which include certain batteries based on their weight and watt-hours.

Producers would be responsible for implementing the program, with the IEPA approving and monitoring the plans. Under the bill a $100,000 annual fee would be imposed on the producers.

“The main responsibility is with the producers,” Koehler said in an interview. “But there's also responsibilities that retailers have. So, if you're involved in selling these batteries, then you also have commitment to being able to recycle those.”

Koehler said that the fee is intended to cover the agency expenses but could be used to start community battery recycling centers in the future. The ability to recycle materials from the returned batteries could help offset the program costs to producers. Producers and retailers are prohibited from charging consumers a point-of-sale fee to cover program costs.

“We need to take and mine out the useful ingredients, the minerals that that make up batteries, and just make sure that they don't end up in the landfills,” Koehler said in an interview.

Christina Seibert, the executive director of the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County, said collection facilities would be within 15 miles of most residents. She also said that mail back programs could be included in collection plans. Storage and recycling locations would be determined in each stewardship plan and approved by the IEPA.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.