College Park residents say lithium battery plant could lead to environmental catastrophe

Some people in College Park are fuming over plans to build a massive lithium battery storage plant in their neighborhood. 

Meanwhile, the mayor claims the city council approved this without properly letting the public know. 

"This is home for me. This is where I spent the first 18 years of my life," said resident Mose James IV, who is opposed to the project. "I rode my bike up and down the streets." 

The facility would sit on a 62-acre property owned by NextEra Energy Resources. 

According to the website for the project, it would be a battery energy storage system that the area’s electrical grid can tap into when a lot of people need power at once. 

"We’ve learned that when those battery facilities burn, you just have to let them burn," James said.  

On Sunday, a lithium battery in California sparked in the port of Oakland, causing a massive blaze. 

In Melba, Idaho, a similar battery storage facility burned for three-and-a-half days last year. 

"Fire departments are not equipped to actually put the fire out," James said. "It has the people in these neighborhoods, which has all of us scared." 

NextEra Energy Resources did not provide comment to FOX 5 on Wednesday, but on its website, it said it’d have means of monitoring the site. 

But overall, James says the entire process at City Hall has been less than transparent. 

"In 2021, it was voted down. In 2023, it was voted down again after public comment," he said. 

However, earlier this year, the new council added it to the agenda and passed it at the last minute. 

That prompted the mayor to alert Attorney General Chris Carr of a possible violation of the Open Meetings Act. 

Attorneys for the city refuted the claim that the council broke the law by approving the project – and accepting $1.6 million from the company in return. 

A spokesperson from the AG's office said the dispute is in a mediation process while it evaluates its next steps. 

UPDATE: A spokesperson for NextEra Energy Resources provided FOX 5 with the following statement on Thursday:

NextEra Energy Resources develops projects nationwide and is committed to positively impacting the communities we’re investing in. As part of this commitment, we work closely with and regularly engage local officials and community members to understand their needs such as job creation, economic growth and tax revenue, and ensure the health and safety of our employees, our neighbors and the public. Project development, such as the Southwest Atlanta Energy Storage project, is a multi-year process in which we take meaningful action to connect with community members and decision-makers. Our goal is to build a project we can all be proud of. We look forward to continuing to work with the communities. Together, we are striving to create a more sustainable future for Georgia.