U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres Looks to Address Public Safety Threat of Dangerous Lithium-Ion Batteries

Mar 07, 2023
Press
Public Safety

BRONX, N.Y. – U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres (NY-15) today joined local elected leaders and city fire officials to announce new federal legislation he is filing to save lives, protect property, and provide greater safeguards for the public after yet another catastrophic and avoidable fire caused by a lithium-ion battery.

The “Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act” would require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to establish a final consumer product safety standard for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in personal mobility devices, such as electric scooters and bikes, to protect against the risk of fires caused by such batteries.

“We were reminded yet again this past weekend of the escalating threat lithium-ion batteries poses to the public’s safety,” said Rep. Torres. “I’m grateful to the hundreds of first responders who continue to bravely respond to these incidents and do all they can to save lives and property, but the time has come for the federal government to act because this problem is not isolated to just New York. We must work to create and implement national safety standards for lithium-ion batteries in order to protect people and places from unreasonable risk, serious injury or damage, and/or death.”

Rep. Torres’s bill is a direct response to a string of fires caused by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power popular consumer products like electronic bikes and scooters. In New York City alone, the FDNY reports that rechargeable lithium-ion batteries have caused more than 400 fires over the last four years, resulting in more than 300 injuries, 12 deaths, and damage to more than 320 structures and morethan100 non-structures.

The most recent example took place Sunday, March 5 at a Bronx supermarket and food plaza after fire officials say a rechargeable lithium-ion battery powering an e-scooter exploded, causing a massive five alarm fire that injured seven people, including first responders, and caused significant property damage to several businesses.

“Lithium-ion batteries are incredibly dangerous, and as we have seen time and time again, they present unique safety risks to the public and our members,” said NYC Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. “We’re grateful to our partners in government for joining us in attacking this problem from all angles, and we will continue to beat the drum on safe usage and best practices of these devices to help prevent tragedies in the future.”

“As a Borough, we have seen an unprecedented number of fires that have caused irreparable harm to our communities,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “These incidents are a call to action, which is why I am proud to join with my colleagues in support of Congressman Torres’s ‘Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act’ to enact federal regulations to protect the health and safety of our residents.”

“The sharp rise in fires involving lithium-ion batteries is incredibly concerning,” said NYC Council Member Oswald Feliz (District 15, Bronx). “Last year, there were approximately 220 fires caused by faulty lithium-ion batteries. We cannot allow this to become the norm. Not all batteries have caused fire safety challenges. Batteries that are certified have safety-related tools that help prevent overheating and other malfunctions that lead to fires. In the City Council, we passed legislation which requires that batteries go through certification in order to be sold in New York City. We need federal action, though, because this matter is creating fire safety challenges in all states and regions. I’m proud to join Congressman Torres in his effort to ensure all lithium-ion batteries are safe for our communities.”

The “Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act” also underscores Rep. Torres’s unwavering commitment to improving fire safety for New Yorkers and all Americans.

He previously sponsored the “Empowering the U.S. Fire Administration Act” in the wake of the deadly Twin Parks North West fire last year, which President Biden signed into law, and is currently cosponsoring the “Safer Heat Act of 2023” to address underlying manufacturing issues and safety concerns with space heaters.

Bill text here.

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