City announces public hearing on battery storage moratorium

The North Hempstead Town Council has approved Supervisor Jennifer DeSena’s proposal to hold a public hearing to consider a one-year moratorium on battery energy storage systems (BESS) townwide. The hearing will take place on Tuesday, August 13, at North Hempstead Town Hall.

This hearing comes in response to growing concerns about fire safety and similar moratoriums approved by other New York towns, including Oyster Bay, Huntington, and Southold. BESS facilities often contain lithium-ion batteries, which are commonly found in electric vehicles (EVs). The facilities are designed as a smart energy source, using rechargeable batteries to help stabilize the power grid and act as a secondary power source when needed. However, fires have broken out at several BESS facilities in New York State, raising questions about their overall safety for surrounding communities.

DeSena said the town must “consider the safety of our volunteer firefighters,” according to a news release from the Town of North Hempstead. DeSena says her concern for the volunteer firefighters is an acute response to a battery-sparked fire in Brooklyn last month that required over 100 firefighters to fight it.

“Our volunteers are second to none, but this is heated hydrogen with toxic fumes,” she said, “so we need to know how to prepare them for the kinds of threats they’re going to face.”

While board members acknowledge the potential environmental benefits of BESS systems, many of them, including Councilman Dennis Walsh, believe more information is needed about the safety of these systems.

“We are always looking for ways to conserve energy and maintain a healthy environment, but the well-being of our neighbors always comes first,” he said. “Until we have more concrete information about the safety of these systems, we cannot in good conscience put the city’s residents at risk, no matter how remote the danger.”

The majority of the Town Council voted in favor of the hearing. Supervisor DeSena confirmed that it will take place on Tuesday, August 13, in the North Hempstead Town Hall meeting room. All Town residents are invited to attend.