BREAKING NEWS: MEDIA ROUND-UP – Exide’s Frisco lead smelter likely to close by Dec. 31
A positive step forward…
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D Magazine – Front Burner
Retail Wealth Lets City of Frisco Buy Out Lead-Polluting Exide Batter Plant
News came yesterday that Frisco had reached a $45 million deal to buy land surrounding the Exide battery recycling plant that’s been around since the 1960s. There weren’t many people living in the city when it opened, but there are about 126,000 residents now, and many of them were none too happy about having a neighbor that released lead into the environment. Now the plant will close.
In a paywalled analysis piece in the Morning News today, Randy Lee Loftis wrote that Frisco was fortunate to find a solution to its dispute with Exide, since regulations weren’t likely ever to force the plant to close:
Usually, rules don’t prohibit pollution. They just set maximums, which implies that anything below the maximum is OK.
With lead, a metal so toxic that almost immeasurably small grains can harm a child, that’s a problem. Medical science says there’s no safe level in a child’s blood, but rules say a certain amount is safe in the air.
Frisco had the money to strike this deal because of the revenue it generates for its Economic Development Corporation and Community Development Corporation, which are funded by a 1/2-cent sales tax. (Frisco’s not a DART member city, so it has the sales tax flexibility to collect this revenue, rather than having to use a chunk of its tax-rate-cap room for transit.) And with massive amounts of retail in the city, plenty of money rolls in. As Loftis put it, Frisco ”has cash to do the job that the rule makers couldn’t.”
So if you’ve ever gone shopping at Stonebriar Centre or Ikea, feel free to give yourself a pat on the back for helping to prevent lead poisoning.
Dallas Morning News
Exide battery recycling plant to close in Frisco deal
RANDY LEE LOFTIS
Published: 31 May 2012 11:29 PM
In deciding to buy out Exide’s battery plant for $45 million, Frisco showed it had learned a lesson: If you want to get rid of pollution, do it — and pay for it — yourself. That’s because typical environmental regulations were never likely to end all lead emissions in Frisco. The Environmental Protection Agency wasn’t going to persuade Exide to move. The EPA has some of the world’s toughest rules on airborne lead, but it was working with Exide toward compliance, not relocation. State regulations weren’t going to do it, either. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality worked up emissions limits for Exide that critics called polluter-friendly. Earlier, the state ignored a city environmental study. Usually, rules don’t prohibit pollution. They just set maximums, which implies that anything below the maximum is OK. With lead, a metal so toxic that almost immeasurably small grains can harm a child, that’s a problem. Medical science says there’s no safe level in a child’s blood, but rules say a certain amount is safe in the air. Regulators always say they can’t control local land use. Critics always say Texas just about never denies a permit. As long as Exide operated, some legal lead would get into the air. That left just the people and their local government to do something more permanent. Frisco is in the good position of having enough economic and community development money to buy out the smelter. Others have used different tactics. In the 1980s, Dallas used a quirk of local zoning rules to keep a closed smelter in West Dallas from reopening. El Paso residents campaigned for years to prevent a shuttered smelter from reopening, only to have the TCEQ give it the green light in a decision that stirred cries of corruption. In early 2009, the EPA finally stepped in and said the state permit broke federal law. The smelter was destined for demolition. El Paso was the exception in that federal regulators eventually decreed there would be no smelter. Frisco is also an exception in that it has cash to do the job that the rule makers couldn’t. The lesson for other communities that don’t want a legal level of pollution might be to think creatively — and save up those nickels and dimes.
Exide battery recycling plant to close in Frisco after deal with city
City officials had pledged years ago that Exide would be “the most environmentally advanced plant in the country” or they would lead the effort to shut it down. And while Exide proposed spending more than $20 million on improvements to go beyond the standards required by state and federal regulators, it could not match the lowered emission levels seen by a competitor. The Quemetco plant in Industry, Calif., had installed pollution controls to reduce its lead emissions to less than 20 pounds a year. Exide’s proposed improvements were estimated to reduce its emissions from 1.09 tons per year in 2010 to about 640 pounds. But state officials had also recently granted Exide more time to install those improvements.
Last year, officials with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had set a deadline of November for all improvements. But because of a dispute with the city over which permits were required, Exide was behind on its timetable. State officials proposed earlier this month granting a 14-month extension for the company to enclose its operations and put them under negative pressure to reduce lead emissions.
Frisco was a farming community of about 1,500 people when city officials celebrated the ground-breaking of an oxide manufacturing plant near downtown in 1964. Battery recycling began at the plant in 1969. For decades, the plant along Fifth Street was the city’s largest employer. The plant annually recycles more than five million used automotive and industrial batteries. And city and company officials worked together for years to mutual benefit.
Purefoy said whenever a problem cropped up, he could always count on the company to help work things out. Then Frisco started to grow. A lot. Locking in the deal in the mid-1990s for the Stonebriar Centre mall helped cement Frisco’s fate as a retail destination. Less than a year after the mall’s opening, a retired Exide executive saw a troubling future for the Frisco plant. Speaking to an industry group in San Antonio, he predicted mounting environmental objections as the city continued to grow.
Frisco was named the nation’s fastest growing city between 2000 and 2009. With a population today of more than 126,000, many residents have said Exide and the city are no longer a good fit. The relationship between Exide and the city shifted in 2008 when Exide applied with state regulators for a production increase without notifying Frisco officials. In October 2008, after a meeting with the plant manager, Purefoy fired off an email to Maso. “I told him that the city was committed to reducing the emissions falling on our citizens every minute from the plant,” Purefoy wrote. “And if Exide wasn’t committed to the same goal, then the relationship between the city and Exide was taking a dramatic change of course.”
The adversarial relationship has continued, with Exide threatening to file suit over disagreements with the city that could cost the company money. Frisco officials said talks of the land purchase started in earnest around March of this year. “Both parties came to the realization that there was a better outcome than fighting in court,” Purefoy said. In January the Frisco City Council had initiated a legal process called amortization that’s used to close unwanted businesses. But Maso said the process involved some risk and would have been expensive. And there were no guarantees that the plant would close in a timely manner. “Our residents asked us to resolve this issue,” Maso said. “This was a good resolution for the company and Frisco.”
City and Exide make a deal: Frisco lead plant closing
FRISCO, Texas, May 31, 2012 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX) — Exide Technologies XIDE -0.86% ( www.exide.com ) and the City of Frisco announced today a proposed agreement that would result in the sale of approximately 180-acres of undeveloped land surrounding Exide’s Frisco Operations. Under the terms of the agreement, the land, which consists of the current buffer zone around Exide’s plant, will be sold to the Frisco Community Development Corporation and the Frisco Economic Development Commission Corporation for $45 million.
Exide Technologies will retain ownership of the federal and state permitted plant site. As part of the proposed agreement, Exide would cease business operations in Frisco no later than December 31, 2012. Exide will assume responsibility for cleaning up the permitted plant site, including removal of all vertical structures with the exception of an administrative office building and wastewater treatment plant. The company will maintain the vacated plant site in accordance with EPA and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulations.
“This agreement was a difficult one to make as Exide is committed to its employees and continuing to provide the critically important environmental service of recycling spent lead-acid batteries. However, this agreement makes the most sense for both Exide and the City of Frisco to move forward,” said Jim Bolch, Exide CEO and President. “I want to thank our loyal and hardworking employees who have continued to remain dedicated to Exide and the valuable service we provided throughout the years. As we work through this process we will provide our employees with all the necessary support and career guidance.”
The Frisco Economic Development Corporation plans to sell parcels of land that stretch along the Dallas North Tollway corridor for corporate and regional headquarter development and the Frisco Community Development Corporation plans to use its parcels for parks and other municipal purposes.
“Exide has been a good corporate citizen of Frisco for more than four decades. This agreement recognizes that Frisco has changed from a rural community of about 1,100 people into one of the fastest-growing, most dynamic cities in the nation, with a current population of more than 125,000 people. This is a good business decision for Frisco that ensures a positive outcome for the City, Exide and protects the public as well as private investment around our central business district for years to come,” said Frisco City Manager George Purefoy.
City of Frisco Mayor Maher Maso pledged to seek state assistance for workers who are being displaced, “We were sensitive to the concerns expressed by Exide employees at our City Council meetings. I will ask the Texas Workforce Commission to provide their full resources to help Exide’s workers find new employment.”
The Associated Press (story picked up by media outlets globally)
Battery plant closing in deal with Dallas suburb
FRISCO, Texas (AP) — A battery recycling plant in a Dallas suburb will close by the end of the year after reaching a $45 million deal designed to end years of disputes over lead emissions and ground contamination, officials said Thursday.
The agreement will free up about 180 acres of undeveloped land in the heart of Frisco, one of the fastest growing suburbs in North Texas, and ends years of wrangling between Exide Technologies, once one of the largest employers in Frisco, and city officials. In recent months, backdoor arguments sometimes turned into ugly, public yelling matches at City Council meetings as Frisco officials refused to give the plant the permits it would need to meet state and federal air pollution rules.
While Exide spokeswoman Susan Jaramillo said the company was willing to fight the city to get the necessary building permits to cut emissions and any future actions it planned, Frisco’s monetary offer was fair and too good to refuse. So the company will cease its Frisco operations by Dec. 31, and shortly thereafter the plant’s smokestacks and many other buildings will begin to come down. About 134 people will lose their jobs, she said.
“In the short-term, we feel confident we could have won all the battles,” Jaramillo said. “In the long-term, the city was making it extremely difficult for us to operate.”
Exide’s Frisco operations will be absorbed by the company’s four other facilities in Vernon, Calif., Reading, Pa., Muncie, Ind., and Canon Hollow, Mo.
The agreement allows Frisco to deal with explosive growth, and further develop, Mayor Maher Maso said. The Dallas suburb has seen its population rise from just more than 33,000 people in 2000 to nearly 117,000 in 2010 — an increase of 254 percent.
Having 180 acres of land in the heart of the city remain undeveloped because of its proximity to the Exide plant was no longer tolerable, Maso explained, noting citizens had been vocal about their desire to see the plant shut down. The biggest concern has been for those that will lose their jobs, he said, and the city is working closely with the Texas Workforce Commission to ensure they get benefits and help finding new jobs.
“I think this worked out for both Exide and the City of Frisco,” Maso said.