The Town of Montgomery board, after discussing and listening to the community’s feedback, approved a 12-month moratorium during its November 28 meeting that prohibited all battery storage developments and reviews, giving the town and its services time to plan and better understand these storages.
As brought up in previous meetings, the town board originally sought to enact a six-month moratorium in response to recent battery storage fires in Orange County and New York State, such as the recent fire in Warwick. Before finalizing its decision, the board held a public hearing and allowed residents to submit their concerns and questions.
Don Berger, a resident, supported the decision but requested that the board extend the moratorium to a year given the lack of information surrounding the dangers of battery storage. Town Supervisor Ronald Feller explained that the board considered a year but wanted to align the moratorium with the state’s current study on battery storage.
“I’m always in favor of a year moratorium on things like this. In this case, we certainly at this point have very limited knowledge of the negative aspects of this thing,” Berger said. “And all I say, Ron, is that I don’t believe you’ll have the answer to that in six months.”
“We were thinking about making it a year, but Governor Hochul is having a six-month study on the specific subject,” Feller responded. “Rather than resending it midway through it, a moratorium, after six months, we can always add to it too. We were looking to get what the state had to say, what their study was going to be as well as ours.”
Mike Carella, senior developer of Key Capture Energy, an energy company that proposed a battery facility for Montgomery between 2019 and 2022, stated that the town’s concerns are valid but assured that KCE upholds safety standards for its facilities.
“I understand the fear and uncertainty felt by many in this room and at the board over what happened in Warwick over the summer. Our company was founded over seven years ago, and we wanted to be a partner to bring clean, safe, and reliable electricity to communities across New York,” Carella said. “I also want to affirm Key Capture’s unwavering commitment to safety and strict adherence to standards and protocols. The battery storage systems, which I believe is shown by our impeccable record, all have the largest fleet of these systems online.”
Carella suggested that the board forego the moratorium for the time being, stressing the community and state’s need for newer, cleaner electricity.
“Montgomery and its surrounding communities are in an urgent need for new electric capacity. The electric grid is changing rapidly; older, often dirty power plants are being retired and replaced with cleaner, renewable energy,” he explained. “We think that you could get by without having a moratorium, that whatever is coming from the state can still be implemented ahead of any project of being approved, including ours.”
Feller questioned why KCE only now approached the board on battery storage after its proposed facility remained inactive for over a year. Carella asserted that he and KCE were finalizing details on their plans right as they heard about the board’s moratorium.
“The project’s been dormant for 15 months. Why now, that we’re going to have a moratorium, are we getting a speech about this?” Feller asked.
“We’ve been working through a few issues with Central Hudson. Right as we found a resolution though was when we learned about the moratorium. We’ve been actively working with our engineers and consultants to redesign the system based on some of the concerns that we heard from the community,” Carella responded.
Mark Palczewski, a resident, questioned who would fund the emergency response to a battery fire and if the town had a plan in place for this occasion.
“Who pays for the additional fire equipment if we need it for putting out the fire? Who pays for the extra EMT in case there’s an issue? Do we have an emergency plan if they blow up and there are toxic fumes? Is this all going to be in place before anything happens?” he asked.
Steve Vriesema, another resident, asked how a battery fire would impact the residents’ health and whether or not KCE truly cares about their well-being.
“Do you know if any lasting health effects are causing them to die, or are they going to be disabled for the rest of their lives from their lungs?” he asked. “I’m listening to this man talk about all this safety, but yet you’re mentioning all these fires that have taken place. It doesn’t sound to me like their company is very safety conscientious.”
Lynette Wright, a fellow resident, agreed with Berger that the moratorium should be a year and shared her experiences with KCE when the company approached her about building a battery facility near her farm.
“My farm happens to be the farm that’s adjacent to this property, and we’ve had quite a few dealings with KCE. My last dealing with them was I asked them for an evacuation plan for my farm animals, for my boarding horses that are there, for my family, for myself, for the adjacent farms, for the schools,” Wright said. “They shut down on me and I haven’t heard from them since.”
Tom Knapp, a representative from IBEW Local 363 Electricians of Hudson Valley, listed off the benefits of battery facilities, including economic growth and job opportunities.
“These projects are popping up all over New York. I know you said there were issues with them, and I’m sure there’s stuff that has to be ironed out. But these battery projects are pretty good for the community, it provides jobs for sealed trade through the installation and maintenance of these projects,” Knapp said. “These projects will provide business for local suppliers and contractors. Their crews will stimulate the area through indirect job creation and will increase spending.”
Following public comment, Councilwoman Kristen Brown read a letter from Chief Matt Hunt of the Coldenham Fire Department expressing his support for the moratorium.
“As technology continues to advance, battery capabilities are constantly changing. A moratorium on these facilities would allow the town board to further research the safety and environmental hazards these facilities pose on the environment, the community, and first responders,” Hunt wrote.
After reconsidering the law’s duration, the board motioned to adopt the moratorium for 12 months instead of six.