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National News Roundup – March 15, 2023

Thursday, March 16, 2023

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E-Bike Explosions Can Pose Challenges

Resulting fires can be very difficult for firefighters to extinguish.

E-bikes, or electric-powered bikes, are propelled by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Safety-certified batteries are generally safe, but they cost much more than uncertified bargain batteries. Some owners try to save money by using cheap, off-brand batteries.

Regardless of the type of battery used, many owners bring the bikes indoors to charge overnight. If they catch fire inside a building, there is potentially major devastation.

The New York City Fire Department (NYFD) recently battled a five-alarm fire in a neighborhood in the Bronx borough of New York City that is thought to have been caused by a lithium-ion battery. At least seven people were injured. Nearly 200 firefighters fought the fire. The e-scooter was parked inside the rear part of a grocery store.

Lithium-ion battery fires are increasing as more people turn to e-bikes for transportation. Last year New York city had 216 e-bike fires.

“In all of these … lithium-ion fires, it is not a slow burn there’s not a small amount of fire, it literally explodes,” said NYFD Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. “These fires start quickly, grow rapidly, offer little time to escape, consume everything in their path, and are very difficult to extinguish,” Kavanagh added.

The flames quickly reach temperatures above 1,000 degrees. Anything combustible nearby will catch fire. The battery cannot be extinguished with water or foam or any regular firefighting material. It just has to burn itself out. Once a battery goes into thermal runaway, there is essentially no way to stop it.

(Sources: Slate, CNN)

Federal Funds Available for Climate, Energy

Some cities are unprepared to take advantage of the federal assistance.

The Inflation Reduction Act has significant money set aside for local governments for electrification and environmental sustainability, but many of them are unprepared for what’s coming. The implementation for such municipal projects may reside with local sustainability offices that often deal with encouraging environmentally friendly infrastructure, building standards, and low-emission transportation.

Many cities could miss out on valuable benefits under the $369 billion climate and energy portions of the law. “As a whole, I think sustainability offices — probably all of us — are not positioned to take this on,” said Jenny Hernandez, the sustainability specialist for Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Christy Goldfuss, chief policy impact officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said she’s concerned that cities aren’t staffing up with specialists to prepare for implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act in a way similar to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, sometimes known as the stimulus bill.

“There doesn’t seem to be the clear understanding that we have New Deal-level of investments in this country for a transformation that is historic. But in order for that promise to be realized, there needs to be a drastically different approach at the local level to how the money gets there, to how the federal government engages, and right now we just don’t see the capacity to do that,” she said.

“Cities are essentially the implementers of this climate legislation, and they’re not ready,” said Aaron Deslatte, an Indiana University, Bloomington, professor who studies climate and sustainability efforts by local governments. Deslatte said he’s concerned about whether poorer, rural or other disadvantaged areas will get what they need.

Some programs under the new law can go directly to the municipalities themselves, skipping over state governments that could be hostile to the law and try to stand in the way. A survey last year of cities with populations over 20 thousand found that just 47 percent had any dedicated sustainability staff and 41 percent had never applied for a sustainability grant.

(Source: E&E News)

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