Maryland Community Puts Up Resistance Against Lithium-Ion Battery Storage Unit - Residents


Maryland Community Puts Up Resistance Against Lithium-Ion Battery Storage Unit - Residents

WASHINGTON (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 23rd February, 2023) A community in the US state of Maryland is coming together to fight an energy company installing a lithium battery storage unit in the area that is close to schools, residents told Sputnik.

Patricia Monroe was unaware until someone told her that PEPCO, a local electricity provider, had begun plans to situate a lithium battery storage unit in her neighborhood.

"Someone I know asked me if I knew what PEPCO was doing and I had no idea. I'm not having it. This is a pilot project that's never been done before. They want to use us as lab rats, guinea pigs for a technology that is untested," Monroe, president of the South Lawn Citizens Association said. "I'm not against alternative forms of energy and I'm not against the battery storage unit but it would be between schools and homes 35 feet away. This proposed substation directly connected to a residential community, less than 100 feet from a daycare and less than one mile away from three schools."

It didn't take long for Monroe to begin doing extensive research on the Livingston Road Battery Energy Storage System and mobilize residents in nearby communities. For about two years, Monroe, community leaders and a band of residents have taken the fight to PEPCO who they argue has pursued a campaign with all the hallmarks of environmental racism.

To that point, said Sharon Lawrence, president of the Livingston Woods Homeowners Association, none of the other suggested locations for lithium battery storage units in Maryland are slated to be placed in a vibrant and active community.

In Montgomery County, for example, residents point out, the place PEPCO chose is a remote location far from where people live.

PEPCO's Livingston Road substation sits in the center of an ethnic and racially diverse cluster of homes, businesses and neighborhoods that are home to a mix of residents who earn a wide range of incomes. Several residents said their concern is piqued by research which indicates that an explosion at the storage facility would likely require a five-mile evacuation radius.

PEPCO's attempt to sidestep residents who live closest to the substation and engage other communities far from the substation angered Monroe and her colleagues. Furious residents sent letters, called, emailed, attended meetings to air their grievances to council members, Maryland state delegates and senators, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, the Public Service Commission, the MD Department of Parks and Planning and other government agencies.

What's most concerning to people like Herb Boyd, Ron Weiss, Monroe and Lawrence are the toxic fumes a fire would produce. Water alone cannot put out lithium battery fires and firefighters in the neighborhood admitted they are still learning and training how to fight these fires.

The batteries are also very volatile and could be ignited by widely varying temperatures, spontaneous combustion. There are also concerns over the release of hydrogen and nitrogen, manufacturing defects, and design flaws.

Christian Wargo, assistant fire chief with Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department, said there are a number of unknowns.

"We're worried about the release of hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and cyanide," he said. "It depends on the battery. This is so new that codes aren't up to date. It's the 'what if,' because we don't know... how they will react."

Despite residents' valid concerns, PEPCO argues that the Livingston Road Battery Energy Storage Project is "safe and clean" and is an essential part of the company's "broader strategic effort to strengthen and modernize the energy grid serving Maryland and the District of Columbia."

"This effort includes numerous targeted projects in communities across the Pepco region to harden our critical energy infrastructure and build a more resilient grid to prevent those outages that can be prevented," the company said in a statement.

PEPCO Regional President Donna Cooper has said in several meetings that residents in Oxon Hill, Ft. Washington and adjoining communities have nothing to fear from these lithium batteries.

"There are so many unknowns when it comes to lithium-ion batteries," said Patrice Payne of the Livingston Woods Homeowners Association. "There are daycares, a middle school a high school. We done the research which has raised our concerns, but PEPCO has not done due diligence. We've been asking PEPCO for risk-and cost sharing analysis. We ask them to revisit where they're placing the battery storage unit."

Payne said there was no state or local regulations to enforce this project, adding that PEPCO lacked the authority and expertise to evaluate the dangers and risks to the community.

In several meetings with PEPCO representatives, residents expressed their deep concerns about the project, citing studies they've seen, and data and information gathered after consultation with educational specialists like the University of Texas' Dr. Ofodike A. Ezekoye, engineers, fire department officials, attorneys, subject-matter experts and others.

Of great concern is that this is a pilot project with no cache of information and data from which to draw conclusions, no actual pool of information from which to formulate analysis, and too few events and mishaps from which to better understand how these Lithium-Ion batteries will hold up in the winter, through wild temperature swings, storms or other elements of nature.