Dinowitz announces bills to regulate e-batteries after Tremont supermarket fire

Visibility was minimal as firefighters battle the blaze in the Bronx on Sunday, March 5, 2023.
Visibility was minimal as firefighters battle the blaze in the Bronx on Sunday, March 5, 2023. Investigators said the fire was caused by a lithium-ion battery.
Photo Lloyd Mitchell

New York State Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz has joined the effort to regulate lithium-ion batteries in the wake of another fire in the borough. 

A five-alarm blaze in the West Bronx on Sunday morning injured five firefighters, one EMS responder and one civilian, according to reporting by amNewYork. Investigators found the fire originated from a battery inside of an e-scooter. 

Dinowitz, a Bronx elected, announced Monday that he’d be pushing two bills that would regulate the use of low-quality lithium-ion batteries. 

“Lithium-ion batteries are increasingly ubiquitous in modern society, from rechargeable laptops and phones to e-bikes and electric cars,” he said. “It is paramount that New Yorkers trust that these products are safe to use and have in their homes, and this legislation will bring our regulatory system into the 21st Century.”

Joining him on the initiative is state Sen. Liz Krueger, who represents parts of midtown and the Upper East Side in Manhattan. 

“Thank you to State Senator Krueger for her partnership on this important safety issue, and I look forward to constructive feedback from all stakeholders to make sure shoddy products do not derail technological progress,” Dinowitz said. 

According to Dinowitz, the first bill, which is he sponsoring, would require all lithium-ion batteries and chargers to meet stricter safety standards, with penalties of $500 upon first violation and $1,000 for subsequent violations. The second bill, Kreuger’s bill, would prohibit the sale of second-use batteries with penalties of $200 upon first violation and $1,000 for subsequent violations within two years.

Krueger said untested lithium-ion batteries are posing a serious risk to New Yorkers. 

“When a piece of equipment has the potential to cause so much damage, we simply cannot have a wild west approach without any oversight,” she said. “Micromobility devices are here to stay, and their use is continuing to expand, so we must act quickly to ensure they are used in a responsible way that doesn’t put other people at risk. I am glad to see the City Council taking action on these issues, but they also must be addressed statewide.” 

Dinowitz and Krueger follow in the footsteps of other New York City and state politicians who are pushing to more strictly address the dangers of lithium-ion batteries. 

Brooklyn Paper reported today that U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens in New York’s Congressional District 7, wrote a letter to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency earlier this month to encourage better enforcement of unsafe batteries. Similarly, Queens City Councilmember Joann Ariola also declared lithium-ion battery fires a “state of emergency” in an interview with QNS recently. 

Elected officials and city agencies have been aware of the persistent issues related to lithium-ion battery blazes for some time now. 

Fordham University banned e-scooters and e-bikes in December citing battery fires.

The City Council just voted last week to ban sales of second-use lithium-ion batteries, and passed legislation banning the sale, lease or rental of batteries that don’t comply with existing safety standards. By the time of the vote last Thursday, there had been 22 lithium-ion battery fires resulting in 36 injuries and two deaths in the city so far this year.

Reach Camille Botello at cbotello@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-2535. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes