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BREAKING NEWS: Exide allowed to reopen troubled Vernon smelter pending July court hearing


Battery recycler Exide Technologies allowed to reopen pending hearing

 Exide TechnologiesExide Technologies, one of the world’s largest makers and recyclers of lead-acid batteries, said in court papers that since the plant’s April 24 closure by state regulators, the Georgia company has had to tap other sources of lead, driving up costs and cutting earnings. Above, a company office in Vernon. (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times / April 24, 2013)
By Jessica Garrison and Kim ChristensenJune 17, 2013, 4:10 p.m.

A Vernon battery recycler shuttered by the state as a health risk in April will be allowed to reopen pending a court hearing next month, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge ruled Monday.

Judge Luis A. Lavin said the public interest would not suffer if the plant were to operate in the meantime.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control ordered Exide Technologies, one of the world’s largest makers and recyclers of lead acid batteries, to suspend operations April 24, saying the facility’s arsenic emissions posed “an unacceptable risk to public health.” The state also said the plant had been continuously leaking hazardous waste into the ground through bad pipes.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District said earlier this spring that arsenic was posing an increased cancer risk to as many as 110,000 people living from Boyle Heights to Maywood and Huntington Park.

But Exide contested the state’s order, contending that the plant had been operating in compliance with state rules, that DTSC had applied different standards to Exide than to other companies and that there was “no imminent and substantial danger to the public health, safety or the environment.”

The company contends that its arsenic emissions have been reduced by more than 70 percent since 2010.

The suspension order was the subject of a three-day hearing in early June before an administrative law judge, but the hearing ended before Exide finished its testimony. It might have been several more months before the hearings could be concluded, according to court filings.

Exide asked a the judge to intervene, arguing that the toxics department had relied on “incomplete and obsolete data” and an “illegal ‘underground regulation’ ” when it shut the plant down.

Exide’s court filing charged that the toxics department’s action was “arbitrary and capricious” and said the department had been under “enormous political pressure regarding oversight of facilities” because of criticism from watchdog groups and state legislators.

Meanwhile, the idling of the plant was hurting the company and its workers, according to court papers. Based in Georgia, the company filed for bankruptcy protection last week, citing the loss of the Vernon plant’s production and other economic factors in its Chapter 11 petition. It listed assets of $1.9 billion and debts of $1.1 billion.

Keeping the plant closed while the company waited for an administrative law judge to schedule additional hearing days would result in “continued unemployment for its workers and millions of dollars of economic damage to Exide,” the company’s lawyers argued.

Superior Court Judge agreed. “Exide’s administrative remedy is too slow to be effective and/or would result in irreparable harm,” read a hand-written note at the bottom of his order.



Vernon battery recycling plant can reopen despite health risks

Molly Peterson |


Mae Ryan/KPCC

An employee wearing a breathing mask works at Exide Technologies, a battery recycling plant has discharged harmful amounts of lead into surrounding communities.

A lead battery recycler in Vernon shuttered as a public health threat two months ago has won the right to reopen, at least temporarily.

In April, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control(DTSC) ordered Exide Technologies to suspend operations. The company’s own inspection video had revealed holes in underground pipes that leaked wastewater into the soil. A health risk assessment released by air regulators had found sharply elevated cancer risks from cyanide and lead emissions for nearby workers and people who lived near the facility.

RELATED: Exide FAQ: Everything you need to know about recycling lead batteries in LA

The company challenged the closure in an administrative proceeding which started earlier this month. But the overworked state Office of Administrative Hearings has not been able to schedule enough time to finish hearing the dispute.

Exide’s Vernon plant recycled up to 40,000 batteries each day; it’s one of only two lead-battery recycling facilities west of the Mississippi. The company filed for bankruptcy protection last week.

Last week Exide went to Superior Court to ask a judge there to block the suspension. Judge Luis Lavin Monday issued a temporary restraining order against the DTSC, writing that Exide would be irreparably harmed by a slow administrative hearing, and that the public interest will not suffer by allowing the lead recycler to get the Vernon plant back to work.



California Superior Court Lifts Top Toxic Regulator’s Suspension of Exide Technologies in Move Endangering Californians


Liza Tucker

Phone Number:
310-392-7931 direct, 626-372-1964 cell

SANTA MONICA, CA –Exide Technologies has won a temporary reprieve that prevents the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) from enforcing its shutdown of the company’s Vernon plant. That means the lead battery recycler can restart its operations, threatening Californians with renewed pollution of their air and water, Consumer Watchdog said today.

“This is what happens when regulators get in bed with polluters” said consumer advocate Liza Tucker. “The polluters get polluted too.” In three days of hearings before a Los Angeles administrative law judge in early June, Exide argued, among other things, that the toxics regulator let the facility to pollute for years and so implicitly sanctioned it. Exide said that meant the DTSC didn’t have the grounds to shut the plant down on April 24 on the basis of  “imminent and substantial” endangerment of the public health.

“You can’t fault the DTSC for doing the right thing after so many years of doing the wrong thing,” said Tucker. She said the regulator will have to make that case in a hearing set before the judge on July 2.

Documents obtained by Consumer Watchdog, including studies commissioned by Exide and internal DTSC correspondence show that the DTSC knew that the lead battery recycler’s operations endangered the public, that lead and arsenic emissions were going into the air and accumulating at hazardous levels on the ground, and were washing away into the surrounding watershed.

The DTSC chose to act on the basis of air emissions and groundwater contamination, rather than on the basis of the accumulation of hazardous waste on the ground. Tucker said that was a tactical mistake. “The DTSC could have acted on the basis of hazardous waste accumulating on the ground and endangering the public health long ago,” said Tucker. “Shutting them down for that would have been a slam dunk.”



Judge Allows Vernon Battery Recycler to Resume Operations

State will appeal court decision at July 2nd hearing.

Exide Technologies, a battery manufacturer and recycler in Vernon that was previously ordered to halt work after arsenic emissions were found around their plant, has been allowed to resume operations after a Superior Court judge issued a restraining order Monday against the state’s toxics management agency.

The order issued by Superior Court Judge Luis A. Lavin lifts the suspension of operations at Exide Technologies, 2700 S. Indiana St., issued in April by the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC), pending an upcoming hearing.

Exide Technologies, 2700 S. Indiana St., was ordered to suspend operations in April.(EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

The department alleged that “metal bearing” waste is leaking from underground pipes at Exide Technologies and the continued operation of the plant would be unsafe.

“We are disappointed that the Superior Court granted Exide’s application for a temporary restraining order,” said DTSC’s Tamma Adamek.

The agency will return to court on July 2 to try to gain a preliminary injunction to resume its suspension of Exide, Adamek said.

Exide representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar criticized the decision.

“The criteria for Exide reopening should be based solely on whether it is safe to do so and whether the public is at risk or not,” Huizar said.

A month before the state agency ordered Exide to cease operations, the South Coast Air Quality Management District cited the company for discharging arsenic, affecting nearby businesses, as well as neighboring communities in Commerce, Maywood and Huntington Park.

Boyle Heights is part of Huizar’s council district and within an area of about 110,000 residents that could also have been affected by arsenic pollution.

“While I still have serious questions about why Exide was allowed to operate by the DTSC under an interim permit for more than three decades, we have to first and foremost protect the people who are living in the surrounding communities right now,” Huizar said.

“Stringent requirements need to be part of ensuring that safety. I’m disappointed with the Superior Court’s ruling because it gives more credence to Exide’s relation with the DTSC, rather than Exide’s record and history with the communities it surrounds.”

The Los Angeles City Council in May approved a resolution backing an investigation into Exide and called on DTSC to ensure the company upgrades its wastewater pipes that the state agency alleged were leaking arsenic.

The Vernon plant recycles 22 million automotive batteries a year and has been operating in Vernon since the 1920s. Exide, a publicly traded company with operations in 80 countries, took over operations about 10 years ago.


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