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Salton Sea lithium suppliers say new CA tax bill is too high

Geothermal Plant at Salton Sea
KESQ
Geothermal Plant at Salton Sea

Wednesday night, California lawmakers approved the $3.8 billion state budget plan. Part of the budget includes a new tax on lithium being developed at the Salton Sea.

Lithium developer Controlled Thermal Resources said the tax is too high and will instead push people to buy lithium from China.

"CTR is confident that an independent study of the lithium market and tax mechanisms will make it abundantly clear to Governor Newsom that this additional tax, as it currently stands, will severely impact the development of ‘Lithium Valley’. ... Supporting a tax that ensures lithium imports from China are less expensive for auto manufacturers ... will devastate this promising Californian industry before it has begun."

- Statement from CTR

Local Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia's office who helped push the budget through supports the tax framework though saying:

"We needed to make certain that as this Lithium Valley industry emerges, our economically depressed and environmentally underserved community does not get left behind – this legislation accomplishes that. Years of discussion and input gathering with industry, the County of Imperial, residents, and other stakeholders led to the development of this tax framework." 

- Assemblymember Garcia

CTR said they want an independent study on the lithium market to be done before they pay the taxes. The operating budget is heading to Governor Gavin Newsom's desk. He could sign it by the end of the week before lawmakers leave town on summer recess.

Earlier this month, CTR reached a 10-year agreement with automotive manufacturer Stellantis to supply its North American electric vehicle production. CTR will supply up to 25,000 metric tons per year of lithium hydroxide.

Last year, CTR struck a deal with General Motors to supply its future electric car batteries from lithium at the Salton Sea.

CTR isn't the only company in the mix looking to produce lithium in the Salton Sea.

Energy Source, which owns one of the 11 geothermal plants around the Salton Sea, also plans to produce lithium by April of 2024. Berkshire Hathaway, which owns the other 10 geothermal plants under the subsidiary Cal Energy, plans to produce lithium on a mass scale by 2027. 

The earliest we could see lithium production would be by CTR in early 2024.

The Salton Sea alone has the estimated potential to provide 40 percent of the lithium used by the world, which would make it the largest source in the world.

If you'd like to learn more about lithium in the Salton Sea, check out News Channel 3 Morning Anchor Angela Chen's Emmy-Award-winning series "Troubled Water: The Salton Sea Project."

In "The Lithium Lift" she went in-depth on the potential of lithium in the region and how extrication will work

Troubled Waters: The Salton Sea Project is a special four-part series in which News Channel 3 morning anchor Angela Chen takes a look at the history, ongoing issues, and the fight for the future of the Salton Sea.

Click here to visit our Salton Sea Project section to learn more about the special report

  • Part 1: Paradise Lost - Angela looks back at the history of the Salton Sea. Find out its connection to Spanish explorers, and how it went from one of the most popular destinations to abandoned and on the verge of disaster
  • Part 2: Toxic Exposure - Angela goes in-depth on the history of toxic outbreaks at the Salton Sea and its connection to the current health issues of those who live near the lake
  • Part 3: A Lake Languished - Angela looks at the millions spent over the years to save the Salton Sea and why there is so little progress to show for it
  • Part 4: Salton Sea Plea - There are massive environmental problems at the Salton Sea, but after decades of neglect, could the lake's unique location be part of the solution in saving it? Angela highlights the movement happening to save the lake

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Article Topic Follows: Salton Sea

Angela Chen

Angela comes to the Coachella Valley as KESQ’s morning anchor after teaching graduate school classes at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication. Learn more about Angela here.

Jesus Reyes

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