State Committee Holds First Hearing On Lithium Recovery Opportunities

Nico Payne

Assembly-member Eduardo Garcia held the first informational hearing on lithium opportunities at the Salton Sea. The Select Committee On California’s Lithium Economy was created just this year and today was an introduction on how our region could benefit from lithium recovery.

NBC Palm Springs has been following the latest developments at the Salton Sea and mineral extraction.

“Right here in Southern California we have the enormous opportunity to be a competitive player in the world lithium market,” explained Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, Committee Chair, Select Committee on California’s Lithium Economy.

As global demand for electric vehicles skyrockets, so too does the demand for the batteries powering the cars. That’s where lithium comes in.

“According to the California Energy Commission, the Salton Sea geothermal resource area which is now coined as “lithium valley” has the potential to meet 40% of the global lithium demand,” added Garcia.

This caught the attention of investors, hoping to cash in on what some are calling ‘the new oil.’

“We’ve seen wind, we’ve seen solar, those came with the same promises and really we didn’t see those benefits end up in the economically depressed areas or environmental justice communities of our region, it’s just not there,” said Luis Olmedo, Executive Director with Comite Civico Del Valle.

The Select Committee on California’s Lithium Economy, led by Assemblymember Garcia was established to explore opportunities. Energy experts want to make sure lithium extraction doesn’t further devastate the Salton Sea.

“Extractive industries have had a very damaging impact on many communities around the world and we want to be very mindful that I think we can do it much better, and differently. in part because of the nature of this resource,” said David Hochschild, Chair of California Energy Commission.

The committee is hoping lithium extraction is a win-win, bringing jobs and industry to the area, while also helping revive the sea itself.

“Developing ‘Lithium Valley’ will support Salton Sea clean-up and create new battery manufacturing industries. I cannot emphasize enough the great opportunity we here in California have, an opportunity to build a sustainable electric vehicle battery supply chain that is radically different than anywhere else in the world.”

The committee is expected to release a report on their findings for lithium opportunities sometime next year.

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