Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis released the following statement after the U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Delaware ruled that Exide Technologies may abandon its shuttered battery recycling facility in Vernon, leaving California taxpayers to pay for the massive cleanup of lead and other toxic pollutants at the site and in surrounding East and Southeast Los Angeles communities:
“Today’s decision by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court allows Exide Technologies (Exide) to walk away from its shuttered battery recycling facility in the City of Vernon, absolving Exide from all wrongdoing and leaving the State of California and its taxpayers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up decades of lead and other toxic contamination deposited in the surrounding neighborhoods. This court ruling is an insult to communities of Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, East LA, Huntington Park, and Maywood, where the residents are primarily working-class Latinos, and demonstrates the federal administration’s unwillingness and failure to hold polluters accountable.
On May 19, 2020, Exide filed for its second bankruptcy and proposed a settlement agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that would allow Exide to abandon the Vernon facility, remediation and cleanup efforts, and any responsibility for the toxic emissions Exide spewed into the air during its operation, polluting the soil and groundwater. State regulators estimate that Exide’s operations have threatened the health of 100,000 Los Angeles County residents. The residents who live near the facility have been impacted by toxic emissions of lead, arsenic and other dangerous contaminants and have been exposed to the harmful health effects. There is no safe level of lead exposure. Lead is a known potent neurotoxin that puts children at-risk for learning disabilities, developmental problems, and even permanent brain damage.
When Exide entered into its first bankruptcy, the federal government entered into a non-prosecution agreement with Exide and its executives, protecting them from criminal prosecution, as long as they agreed to cleanup the facility and surrounding community. However, now the Trump Administration is letting Exide walk away from that promise, leaving the cost of that cleanup to the taxpayers. To date, the State of California has spent over $200 million to clean up about 2,000 properties, far less than needs to be done to assure the safety of the affected communities.
Safeguarding public health remains has always been my top priority. That is why I have advocated alongside the impacted residents for the cleanup of their homes. In response to these advocacy efforts, in 2016, Governor Jerry Brown allocated $176.6 million for soil testing and cleanup. Governor Gavin Newsom has also allocated $76 million to help expedite the cleanup. I am committed to seeking environmental justice for these communities. As an elected representative representing the First District of Los Angeles County, which includes the neighborhoods contaminated by Exide, I will continue fighting to see that the soil is cleaned up and that the public health needs of our most vulnerable residents are not ignored by our local and State representatives as they have been by the current federal administration.”
Contact: Kimberly Ortega, Acting Director of Communications, KOrtega@bos.lacounty.gov