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County of Imperial Seeks Support from Congressional Committee to Promote Lithium Valley

-Editorial

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors approved a letter to Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Coachella) to request a House Energy and Commerce Committee summit focused on the federal government’s role in facilitating the development of the lithium extraction industry in the Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource Area.

The County of Imperial is looking to make a statement at the national level and make it clear to federal officials that this region is the place lithium development can help the country. 

Ruiz, a member House Energy and Commerce Committee, was called to help the County promote the Lithium Valley promise in Washington D.C. 

On February ,7 2023, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors held a press conference to provide an update related to all efforts and activities the County of Imperial has engaged in since the adoption of its Lithium Valley Economic Opportunity Investment Plan (LIP) in February 2022 to encourage lithium production, lithium-ion battery manufacturing, and related industry development in Imperial County. 

In addition to the updates that were provided regarding the efforts, investments, and commitments that both Imperial County and the State of California have achieved and provided over the past year, a list of upcoming requests of the federal government were announced. Included in the list, is a request for a congressional committee field hearing in Imperial County to bring attention to this economic opportunity in Lithium Valley and to assess the role of the Federal government in facilitating development of the lithium extraction industry here.

Discussions about a potential field hearing with Congressman Ruiz’s staff began prior to the press conference, but in a recent meeting with county officials, Congressmember Ruiz provided other recommendations that could be just as effective; therefore it is the intention of staff to memorialize this request in writing to the Congressman. 

In the letter, County Board Chairman Ryan Kelley reminded Ruiz that the county approved a package of Local Lithium Development Incentives, which includes a Capital Investment Incentive Program that will provide up to 10 years of property tax abatement for companies whose investment exceeds $150 million, along with a lithium producers tax rebate and a lithium users tax rebate. 

“At the Federal level, there are a number of critically important short- and long-term actions that should be undertaken to ensure the successful development of sustainable, high-value critical minerals in our region. From timely approval of federal permits to making key investments in local and regional infrastructure- including roads and bridges, railways, electrical grid, and, environmental remediation – Federal agencies and the United States Congress must do everything possible to support the lithium industry and its local government partners,” Kelley stated in the letter. “In our view, an integral part of this undertaking would include a House Energy and Commerce Committee event that examines the state of lithium extraction efforts in the Salton Sea geothermal resource area, with a particular focus on Federal, State, and local actions aimed at supporting the development of the industry. While the Board of Supervisors believes a committee field hearing in Imperial County would be the ideal way to highlight the critically important work taking place in Lithium Valley, we understand that it may be more prudent to seek a committee roundtable, summit, or similar type of forum here or in Washington, D.C.” 

Lithium Tax Revenues Spending Priorities Public Comment Period

The board agreed to open a 60-Day Public Comment Period (March 1-30, 2023) to Accept Written Comments, Suggestions, and Ideas Regarding Community Spending Priorities for Potential Lithium Tax Revenues.

On July 2022, Governor Newsom signed SB 125, which created a Lithium production (extraction) tax.

Said tax will generate new tax revenue to both the State of California and the County of Imperial. In general, the State will receive 20 percent of the revenues while the County will receive 80 percent. Additionally, the law provides that the County will spend 30 percent of the funds they receive on projects within host communities. The host communities are both incorporated and unincorporated areas within the County of Imperial nearer where the geothermal/lithium production will occur. 

The Renewable Energy/Lithium Subcommittee of the Board of Supervisors (Board Chair Ryan E. Kelley and Supervisor Jesus Eduardo Escobar) have expressed a desire to open an informal public comment period to provide the opportunity for persons and organizations or submit written input regarding regional priorities.  

Schwarzenegger Hears Lithium Valley

On Friday, February 17, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Ryan E. Kelley; Executive Director of Comite Civico del Valle, Luis Olmedo; County CEO, Miguel Figueroa; and Deputy CEO, Rebecca Terrazas-Baxter, met with the 38th Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and other officials from the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy. Former California State Senator Fran Pavley and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia chaired the discussion.

This roundtable discussion surrounded the promise of Lithium Valley, including bringing new investments and job growth to Imperial County and the state; helping California meet its climate, energy, and transportation electrification goals; and increasing supply of a critical mineral deemed essential to the economic and national security of the United States. 

“We’re thankful for former Governor Schwarzenegger and Assemblymember Garcia for convening these stakeholders with the intention to learn more about the potential of Imperial County’s Lithium Valley,” stated Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Ryan E. Kelley. “I believe the meeting outcome will bring focus and attention to our federal government on the importance of Lithium Valley and how the recovery of these critical minerals will benefit our country, state, and residents.”

Kelley said Schwarzenegger was very interested in getting involved and help promote Lithium Valley.

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