Supervisor Hilda L. Solis issued the following statement on the proposed Exide bankruptcy settlement/Consent Decree proceedings:
“The proposed settlement/Consent Decree between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the former Exide battery recycling facility in Vernon, California, is an insult to the Exide-affected communities and an environmental injustice.
It fails to hold Exide and its predecessors accountable for operating the Vernon facility in violation of State laws and regulations for decades, resulting in environmental contamination in the surrounding communities of Boyle Heights, Maywood, East Los Angeles, Commerce, Bell, and Huntington Park – all of which I represent.
Today, I express my strong objection to the proposed settlement and abandonment of the Vernon facility, and request the following:
- The Federal Government must withdraw the proposed settlement and require Exide to complete the cleanup of the communities it polluted from its Vernon facility and pay back the State the hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds that have been used to clean up the neighborhoods surrounding the facility.
- The Federal Government should immediately revoke the non-prosecution agreement with Exide and pursue criminal charges against Exide and its executives, who have attempted to avoid their legal responsibilities at every turn. The Bankruptcy Court should reject the proposed settlement, which unconscionably gives Exide the ability to abandon the contaminated Vernon facility, which remains a danger to the residents that live in the nearby communities.
- The public comment period on the proposed settlement/Consent Decree should be extended to at least 60 days to allow all interested persons to submit written comments for the Court to consider.
- A public hearing should be held in Los Angeles County on the matter for the U.S. EPA, U.S. Department of Justice, and Court to hear from, experts, community members, state regulators, elected officials, and the public interest groups.
This injustice will not stand. Wealthy corporations and their executives are not above the law. Los Angeles County and I will continue to stand firmly with those who live in the impacted communities.”
To view Supervisor Solis’ public comment, click here.
For decades, Exide emitted lead, arsenic, cadmium, and other toxics into its property and into the surrounding community. It also contaminated groundwater and released battery acid onto roads. The State of California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control estimates that properties up to 1.7 miles away from the facility may potentially be affected by Exide’s lead contamination, or roughly 10,000 properties. There is evidence that Exide’s pollution may extend much farther than 1.7 miles away. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice agreed to not prosecute Exide for violations of hazardous waste law in exchange for ceasing operations at the Vernon facility and agreeing to safely close and remediate the facility. Just five years later, Exide is now seeking to be released from these remediation requirements. Further, the U.S. Department of Justice is agreeing to not oppose Exide’s option to abandon the highly contaminated site. Between the proposed settlement/Consent Decree, Exide will face only minor consequences despite causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to the environment and public health. The U.S. Department of Justice has only offered the public eight business days to respond to this public settlement. This is an extremely abbreviated public comment compared to the typical 30 days that are typically given for bankruptcy settlements. This short comment period limits the transparency of a decision that will affect hundreds of thousands of lives.
Contact: Kimberly Ortega, Acting Director of Communications, KOrtega@bos.lacounty.gov