Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh in Midtown on Sunday to push legislation that would regulate Lithium-ion batteries amidst a rash of recent related fires.
According to the Fire Department of New York, these rechargeable power sources have contributed to more than 400 infernos over the last four years, resulting in more than 300 injuries, 12 deaths, and damage to more than 320 structures across the Big Apple.
Parents Alfonso Villa Munoz and Marilu Torres Perez know this type of loss all too well. The Queens couple lost their eight-year-old daughter Stephanie in an e-bike fire last September. At the April 23 press conference, Perez stood sobbing holding a photograph of her child, tears streaming down her face.
It is losses like the Perez family’s, Schumer said he’s aiming to prevent with the Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act.
“Over the past few years, there has been a growing number of fires across New York City, in Long Island and beyond,” Schumer said, lifting a Lithium-ion battery. “This is one of these batteries. They’re heavy. They’re important. They catch on fire. That’s the problem. And if you’re riding on a scooter or a bike, or even have it stored in your home, and this catches on fire, you are in big, big trouble.”
Officials said Sunday that battery fires are most likely to occur if the power supply is cheaply purchased — often imported out of country — or are used with different power cords than the one they are shipped with. The bill pols are pushing would regulate Lithium-ion batteries to ensure that only properly maintained batteries will be on the market, preventing explosions.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission would also be given more power to implement safety measures on such batteries via the legislation, Schumer and Gillibrand said.
“For example, the batteries that we have in our phones have an automatic device within them that as soon as the battery heats to a certain level it turns it off,” Senator Gillibrand said. “What these e-bikes don’t have is anything that turns off the battery when it’s been overheated.”
Fire Commissioner Kavanagh, who penned an op-ed in amNewYork Metro last month warning of the deadly batteries, agreed with the state lawmakers. She also promised Sunday that, if the act is passed, the cost of batteries will not significantly rise.
While Schumer charged that substantial change could only come via a federal level, Kavanagh declared that, in the meantime, the FDNY will continue educating New Yorkers on the dangers of these products while other legislation has also been discussed in the New York City Council.
“This is an incredibly important step forward,” she said. “Just this year alone we’ve had 63 fires and five deaths. We don’t want to see that happen again.”