EXIDE VERNON UPDATE: Vernon-area residents accuse DTSC of Environmental Racism because of agency’s ongoing, knowing failure to permit Exide lead smelter, its ongoing failure to fulfill its responsibility to oversee and enforce long-time-on-the-books regulations to protect neighborhoods and health, and failure to keep Exide from continuously violating hazardous waste laws and more (just check out recent postings below)
DTSC Accused of ‘Environmental Racism’
By EGP Staff Report
Hundreds of people took to the streets of Vernon last week to call for the closure of Exide Techonologoes, an embattled lead-acid battery recycler in the city.
“Stand by our side, shut down Exide,” chanted residents and environmental activists from Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park.
The protest was in response to recent hazardous waste violations issued against Exide by the Department of Toxic Substance Control. The citations included unauthorized tanks filled with contaminated sludge and failure to “sufficiently protect against spills.”
For the protesters, the problems go beyond Exide. They accused DTSC of engaging in flagrant environmental racism, saying the regulatory agency has not shut down Exide, despite its long history of air quality violations and arsenic emissions, because the affected communities are home to working-class Latinos.
“DTSC’s actions show that it has placed Exide’s and the State’s financial interests above the Latino community’s human right to breath clean air and live in safe communities,” said Milton Hernandez-Nimatuj, a youth organizer with CBE, Communities for a Better Environment.
The participants pointed to the nearly identical Exide facility that was shut down in the white-affluent city of Frisco, Texas as proof of their claim.
The group accused DTSC of imposing lighter fines and entering into settlement agreements instead of shutting down the plant that up until recently had been operating on a temporary permit.
But DTSC continues to say the agency is fully aware of the community’s concerns and they are holding Exide accountable.
“We are carefully and thoroughly evaluating Exide’s compliance record, including these most recent violations, as part of our decision on their permit application. We will make a decision before the end of the year, and in the meantime, wherever we see non-compliance, we will issue violations,” DTSC Spokesman Sandy Nax said in a statement to EGP.
The Vernon plant has been closed since March 2014 to make equipment improvements to meet South Coast Air Quality Management District air quality standards. DTSC must decide whether to issue a permit by the end of the year or Exide would face closure.
Gladys Limon, staff attorney at CBE, said Exide does not deserve that permit.
“DTSC has a duty to initiate a permit denial process based on Exide’s historical and ongoing violations,” she said at Monday’s rally. “It is reckless and creates dangerous precedent to allow such a facility…to continue to operate.”
DTSC countered that the permit process has been transparent and open to the public and a public comment portion will be considered before the agency’s final decision.
Representatives of L.A. County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and the County’s Department of Community and Senior Services also took part in the rally and the supervisor pledged the County’s support to “protect the health and safety of communities threatened by pollution from the Vernon plant.” She pledged assistance to workers who could be displaced if Exide is closed permanently.
According to Solis, the county will be leading three special orientations for Exide dislocated workers in Huntington Park, Santa Fe Springs and East Los Angeles.
On Feb. 10, she told her fellow supervisors that county health officials should make department staff available to follow up on the lead blood testing program, both to discuss the results of tests already taken and to encourage more people to get tested by the end-of-the –month deadline.
“No community should receive less of what they are entitled to. Let’s level the playing field,” Solis said during the board meeting.
Exide, however, continues to say the company is committed to working with regulators to meet permit requirements and health and safety standards, and to get their approximately 135 employees back to work.
“We recognize the community’s concerns and are committed to engaging openly and transparent with local residents,” said Tom Strang, vice president for Exide’s Evironment and Safety, in a statement.
Exide officials say the company has invested $35 million in environmental, health and safety measures since 2010.
Monsignor John Moretta of Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights said re-training Exide employees is key.
“Surely our political leadership agrees that the safety and health of 100,000 people is more important than 100 jobs which pose grave danger to workers,” he said at the Vernon rally.
AQMD previously found that 110,000 people in the area were exposed to cancer-causing chemical emissions from Exide.
Vernon Councilmember-elect Melissa Ybarra told EGP that she drives by Exide everyday on her way to work but she has yet to take a stance on the controversial topic.
However, like her father before her, she too is concerned about the plant.
“My concern is making sure the employees are healthy,” said Ybarra, who was elected Tuesday to fill out her late father’s term.
Mark Lopez, director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, is not satisfied by the company’s efforts to remediate the health concerns. He said his mother and grandmother fought against environmentl justice in the 1990s, and things haven’t change.
“I’m standing here, fighting to shut down Exide permanently, so my toddler daughters won’t have to fight Exide to protect their children’s health in the future.”
(OPEN LETTER FROM LEAD FREE FRISCO TO CITIZENS OF THE COMMUNITIES IMPACTED BY EXIDE VERNON (AND ALL OF THE OTHER NEGATIVELY IMPACTED COMMUNITIES)
IT IS WELL DOCUMENTED THAT EXIDE HAS CONTAMINATED COMMUNITY AFTER COMMUNITY ACROSS THIS COUNTRY, AND AROUND THE WORLD. IT HAS BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR SUPERFUND SITE AFTER SUPERFUND SITE. GO AND READ THROUGH ALL OF ITS SEC FILINGS, AS A START.
THERE ARE ACRES AND ACRES AND ACRES OF CONTAMINATED SOIL ON AND NEAR ITS LEAD SMELTER AND PLANT SITES, AS WELL AS CONTAMINATED SURFACE AND GROUNDWATER WHERE IT HAS HAD AND STILL HAS SITES. IT ALSO PUTS THE BURDEN OF PROOF ON THE CONTAMINATED COMMUNITIES AND HIDES BEHIND LAW FIRM AFTER LAW FIRM AFTER LAW FIRM.
IT TAKES DECADES TO DEMOLISH CLOSED SITES THAT SIT ON CONTAMINATED LAND, WITH NEARBY WATERWAYS STILL CONTAMINATED, TOO.
EXIDE ALWAYS PUSHES FOR BLOOD TESTS BECAUSE LEAD BREAKS DOWN IN THE BLOOD SO QUICKLY, AND THEN DEPOSITS ITSELF LONG-TERM IN BONES AND ORGANS.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY HEALTH OFFICIALS KNOW THIS, IT IS SHAMEFUL, AND IT SEEMS THAT IT WILLFULLY AND KNOWINGLY SHIRKS ITS RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT PUBLIC HEALTH IN FAVOR OF DOING WHAT EXIDE WANTS IT TO DO, GIVEN ITS TRACK RECORD!
DEMONSTRATING BLATANT ONGOING MISMANAGEMENT, EXIDE IS IN ITS SECOND CHAPTER 11 BANKRUPTCY SINCE 2000. IN ADDITION TO WIPING OUT HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF DEBT IT INCURRED, THE COMPANY ALSO KNOWS IT CAN WIPE OUT THE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF ENVIRONMENTAL LIABILITIES IT HAS CAUSED. AND, THAT DOES NOT INCLUDE THE TRUE COST TO HUMAN HEALTH AND LONG-TERM DESTRUCTION OF NEIGHBORHOODS AND COMMUNITIES BECAUSE OF THE LEVEL OF SOIL AND WATER CONTAMINATION IT LEAVES BEHIND.
IT WORKS WITH ITS LAW FIRMS AND LOBBYISTS TO HELP ENSURE THERE IS A SYSTEMIC FAILURE OF OVERSIGHT, REGULATION AND ENFORCEMENT, FROM THE LOCAL TO THE REGIONAL TO THE STATE TO THE FEDERAL LEVEL.
IT EVEN SPONSORS HIGH SCHOOL EVENTS IN THE VERNON AREA TO TRY TO SWAY RESIDENTS.
IT IS HARD TO FIND EVIDENCE THAT WITH THIS LATEST BANKRUPTCY THAT THE COMPANY WILL CHANGE ITS WAYS IF IT IS ALLOWED TO EMERGE FROM THIS LATEST BANKRUPTCY. IT ALSO HAS THE SAME BANKRUPTCY JUDGE THAT IT HAD FOR ITS FIRST BANKRUPTCY. EXIDE IS STILL BLEEDING MONEY. SEE THIS POST AND THIS LATEST FILING.
AND, READ THE FYI BELOW ABOUT THE PERSON IT HIRED LAST YEAR TO BE ITS VP OF ENVIRONMENT AND SAFETY. IN LOOKING AT PUBLIC RECORD OF HIS EXPERIENCE WITH PAST COMPANIES – ALSO MAJOR POLLUTERS AND CONTAMINATORS – SEEMS TO BE INTERESTING PATTERN OF DISCONNECT BETWEEN SOUNDBITES FOR MEDIA AND ACTUAL BEHAVIOR AND ACTUAL ACTIONS TAKEN BY COMPANIES. SOUNDS FAMILIAR, DOESN’T IT? HMMM….
On June 11, Exide announced that it had appointed two new executives to lead its efforts to upgrade the Vernon smelter.
The company named Thomas Strang as its vice president of environmental health & safety – Americas, and Charles Giesige as vice president or recycling operations – Americas.
From Exide’s news release: ” ‘Tom and Chuck will drive a strong health and safety vision and culture at Exide,” said Robert M. Caruso, President and Chief Executive Officer of Exide Technologies. “They bring fresh perspectives and high levels of expertise to lead our efforts to upgrade our Vernon facility.’ …..Mr. Strang has a successful history in managing environmental remediation, implementing best practices and working collaboratively with diverse communities. Prior to joining Exide, he served as the Vice President of Environment Health and Safety, Regulatory Affairs, and Manufacturing Excellence for Chemtura Corporation where he developed and instilled the company’s safety culture globally. He held a similar role at Hercules Chemical, serving in a number of engineering, supply chain, and plant manager capacities.”
Mr. Strang is responsible for developing and managing regulatory compliance programs at the Vernon operation and other Exide locations. He also is overseeing the upgrades for the Company’s Vernon recycling facility. He joined Exide on May 5.
According to his public Linkedin profile, for five months before joining Exide, Mr. Strang was president of StrangSafety, LLC. Before that, he served from Feb. 2009 to Feb. 2014 as vice president, EHS&S, regulatory affairs and manufacturing excellence for Chemtura, a large global chemicals producer.
Chemtura filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March, 2009. The U.S. Department of Justice filed proofs of claims on behalf of the EPA and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. The U.S.’s proofs of claim under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) pertained to past costs incurred and estimated future response costs at EPA-lead sites. The U.S.’s proofs of claim included a claim for penalties under CERCLA, the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Emergency Planning & Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) due to alleged violations that stemmed from a fire at Chemtura’s Bio-Lab, Inc. facility in Conyers, GA, according to EPA documents.
Pursuant to two separate settlement agreements approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York in 2010, Chemtura Corporation agreed to resolve its liabilities at 18 sites across the U.S. for approximately $30 million in total.
The first settlement agreement (Multi-Site Settlement) was approved by the Bankruptcy Court on September 17, 2010 and addresses liabilities at 17 sites for approximately $26 million.
The second settlement agreement (Gowanus Site Settlement) was approved by the Bankruptcy Court on December 7, 2010 and addresses one site in New York for $3.9 million.
Before joining Chemtura, Mr. Strang served in a variety of management positions at Hercules Inc. — a major chemicals manufacturer and marketer — from 1982 until January 2009. The positions included director, supply chain for FiberVisions and Pinova and plant manager, for Hercules’ Brunswick, Georgia facility. Prior to that he held various management positions in engineering, maintenance and operations – often involving environmental policy, issues – at major Hercules manufacturing facilities including Hopewell, Virginia; Louisiana, Missouri; and Brunswick, Georgia.
The list below was compiled from a Google search of stories mentioning Hercules and Mr. Strang:
May 1, 2008
May 15, 2008
CITY OF FRISCO OFFICIALS FOOLISHLY CHOSE TO PAY OFF EXIDE TO CLOSE ITS CONTAMINATED/CONTAMINATING LEAD SMELTER IN THE VERY HEART OF THEIR FAST-GROWING COMMUNITY.
SHORTLY AFTER EXIDE GOT THE FIRST HALF OF THE $45 MILLION THE CITY OF FRISO AGREED TO PAY IT, IT FILED FOR BANKRUPTCY. WITH ALL OF THE IN-PLAIN-SIGHT SIGNS THAT THERE WAS AN EXCELLENT CHANCE THAT EXIDE WOULD DO WHAT IT DID IN 2002 AND FILE BANKRUPTCY AGAIN.
STILL CAN’T BELIEVE THE CITY OF FRISCO JUST BASICALLY GAVE EXIDE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, AND NOW IT IF IS LEFT WITH A VERY CONTAMINATED SITE THAT THE COST TO CLEAN UP FAR EXCEEDS WHAT CITY OFFICIALS ESTIMATED.
EXIDE IS GOING TO PLAY A VERY INTERESTING GAME WITH THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA WITH LITTLE REGARD FOR THE RESIDENTS WHO LIVE NEAR ITS VERNON PLANT. READ MORE ABOUT IN THIS POST.
WILL EXIDE CHANGE HOW IT OPERATES WITH REGARDS TO THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF THE COMMUNITIES THAT SURROUND ITS PLANTS IF IT COMES OUT OF BANKRUPTCY?
READ THROUGH THIS SITE AND DO YOUR OWN HOMEWORK, AS THERE IS PLENTY OF DOCUMENTATION ACCESSIBLE TO THE PUBLIC.
LOOK CLOSELY AT ITS LEADERSHIP AND IS PAST RECORD. LOOK CLOSELY AT THE BANKRUPTCY JUDGE AND CONSIDER THAT HE MAY LET EXIDE COME OUT OF BANKRUPTCY, AGAIN.
LOOK CLOSELY AT THE BANKS/SECURED CREDITORS WHO ARE THE ONES WHO REALLY OWN THE COMPANY NOW, AND LOOK CLOSELY AT THEIR CORPORATE CULTURES AND HOW THEY CONDUCT THEIR BUSINESSES AND THE SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY THEY SHOW AND DEMONSTRATE TO THE RESIDENTS OF THE IMPACTED COMMUNITIES AND, OVERALL TO THE CITIZENS OF THE U.S. GIVEN THEIR RESPECTIVE ROLES IN THE 2008-2009 FINANCIAL CRISIS WE ALL ARE STILL TRYING TO RECOVER FROM.
THEN CONNECT THE DOTS AND SEE WHAT KIND OF PICTURE YOU HAVE.
KEEP FIGHTING THE CALCULATED INDIFFERENCE SHOWN BY EXIDE’S MANAGEMENT, THE BANKRUPTCY JUDGE, CREDITORS, ELECTED OFFICIALS AND RESPONSIBLE AGENCIES AT ALL LEVELS.
THEY DO NOT LIVE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD. IT IS NOT THEIR FAMILIES THE LEAD DUST FALLS ON OR THE ARSENIC EMISSIONS REACH. THEIR CHILDREN DO NOT PLAY IN THE CONTAMINATED HOME AND SHOOL YARDS NEAR EXIDE IT IS NOT THE WATER OR CREEK OR RIVER NEAR THEM THAT IS CONTAMINATED. THEY WOULD NOT SETTLE FOR EXIDE’S BLOOD LEAD TESTS FOR THEIR FAMILIES.
KEEP FIGHTING FOR YOUR FAMILIES, YOUR NEIGHBORHOODS, AND YOUR COMMUNITY!
CONSIDER WHAT EXIDE IS — A CORPORATION THAT HAS FILED BANKRUPTCY TWICE SINCE 2000 — WHAT IT DOES, HOW IT OPERATES. THINK ABOUT THE CONTAMINATION, WHICH IS SO WELL DOCUMENTED. THINK ABOUT ITS ONGOING VIOLATIONS AFTER VIOLATIONS AFTER VIOLATIONS, AND ITS ONGOING PROMISES NOT TO DO IT ANY MORE.
EXIDE HAS ALWAYS HAD THE ABILITY TO MAKE DECISIONS NOT TO POLLUTE, CONTAMINATE AND HARM ALL OF THESE YEARS, BUT IT CHOSE TO DO ANYWAY, AND IT STILL DOES. NUMEROUS ELECTED OFFICIALS AND AGENCIES HAVE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO ENFORCE LAWS THAT HAVE BEEN ON THE BOOKS FOR A LONG TIME TO BRING EXIDE IN LINE AND STOP IT FROM HARMING AND CONTAMINATING THEIR COMMUNITIES, BUT THEY DIDN’T.
YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO DEMAND THAT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND THOSE AT THE AGENCIES WHERE YOUR TAX DOLLARS PAY THEIR SALARIES TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISIONS FOR THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING FOR THE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITIES WHERE THEY LIVE, NOT FOR THE ONE GEORGIA-BASED GLOBAL COMPANY THAT HAS PROVEN TIME AND TIME AND TIME AGAIN TO BE AN INCREDIBLY MISMANAGED BUSINESS THAT IS A VERY BAD AND HARMFUL NEIGHBOR THAT HAS A VERY LONG AND WELL-DOCUMENTED RECORD OF CREATING AND LEAVING LONG-TERM CONTAMINATION WHERE IT GOES.
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP! THIS IS ABOUT YOUR FAMILIES, HOMES, NEIGHBORHOOD AND COMMUNITY!