The Biden administration avoided one of the more challenging early tests of its climate agenda on Saturday when two South Korean battery giants celebrating trade secrets reached a solution to keep a massive factory complex in Georgia open, according to sources familiar with the negotiations .
The White House faced a Sunday deadline to decide whether to veto a decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission in February that prevented SK Innovation from importing the materials needed to build electric vehicle batteries worth $ 2.6 billion. Dollar factory in Commerce, Georgia.
The case illustrates the new government̵
As recently as Friday night, the company looked far from an agreement with Seoul-based rival LG Energy Solutions, which convinced the federal commercial court that SK Innovation destroyed evidence of stolen trade secrets. In February, ITC imposed a 10-year import ban on SK Innovation, jeopardizing the supply of batteries for Ford’s electric F-150 pickup and Volkswagen’s Crossover series, threatening the 2,600 jobs the company plans to fill in Georgia over the next few year.
The ruling also risked delaying President Joe Biden’s plans to electrify the country’s 276 million some bizarre cars, the largest U.S. source of climate pollution.
The agreement will also end other ongoing U.S. lawsuits between the two companies, including one in a federal court in Delaware that had been on hiatus until the ITC saga reached its conclusion.
SK Innovation’s plants will account for up to 35% of US production capacity for electric vehicle batteries by the end of Biden’s first period, when the country is expected to have around 11 large factories for the production of powerpacks online.
It is likely to force carmakers to rely more on batteries made in China, which in turn build around 100 battery plants.
The settlement, whose details began to be announced Saturday morning, is likely to help reverse the ruling and allow SK Innovation to keep its facility open.
The agreement is a political victory. Leaders across the partisan spectrum pressed for a result that allowed the plant to remain open. The Georgian government Brian Kemp (R) begged Biden to veto the decision if no solution was reached. In recent weeks, Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) Held at least one meeting to mediate an agreement.
But in the end, the looming deadline and the high stakes for a decision that would define the future of an American country for almost exponential growth in the next decade led to an eleven-hour deal.
Losing the factory without a deal or veto would have sent a chill through the U.S. battery market as it appears to be starting to attract more players, said Caspar Rawles, an analyst at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a London-based research firm specializing in and lithium-ion. batteries and electric vehicle supply chains.
“The message you are sending to these companies by essentially closing a facility in the United States for legal reasons does not send a good message,” he said before the deal was announced. “It’s not the most inviting investment environment for someone who wants to spend billions of dollars, and then there is a risk that something will happen and there will be a legal intervention and they will lose it all.”
A veto by the president would have been a rare move. The last time the power was used was in 2013, when President Barack Obama blocked an ITC decision that would have prevented Apple from importing some iPads. Ronald Reagan set the record and vetoed four ITC decisions, including one that happened to deal with batteries.
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