SACRAMENTO, CA – For decades, Exide emitted lead, arsenic, cadmium, and other toxic pollutants into its property and the surrounding community. It also contaminated groundwater and released battery acid onto our roads. The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) estimates that properties up to 1.7 miles away from the facility may potentially be affected by Exide’s lead contamination, roughly 10,000 properties. In 2015, the U.S. DOJ agreed not to 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.
Earlier this year, Exide filed for bankruptcy and has now proposed a settlement agreement that would allow it to be released from its remediation requirements. Furthermore, the U.S. DOJ has agreed to not oppose Exide’s option to abandon the highly contaminated site. Between the non-prosecution agreement and this proposed settlement, Exide will face only minor consequences despite the overwhelming damage it has caused to the environment and public health. The U.S. DOJ has only offered the public 8 business days to respond to this public settlement, compared to the typical 30 days comment period for most bankruptcy settlements.
This week, Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), and elected officials sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney General William Bar demanding that Exide be held fully accountable for the lead poisoning of the environment and the surrounding residents. Specifically, legislators and community leaders demand the U.S. Department of Justice (U.S. DOJ) 1) extend the public comment period to 60 days instead of 8 days, 2) hold a public hearing in Los Angeles to allow for full community input.
“Exide has contaminated Los Angeles communities for decades. Their actions now further prove their refusal to take responsibility for the negligence which has had many devastating effects on the health and well-being of children and families. DTSC allowed Exide to operate without proper oversight for years, thereby allowing Exide to pollute and poison our communities with no consequence,” stated Assembly Member Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles). “Exide should not be allowed to walk away from this environmental disaster and their responsibilities to clean it up through a bankruptcy. We demand and deserve justice.”
“Exide must be held accountable for the toxic environmental damage they have caused over decades,” said Assembly Member Miguel Santiago. “For too many years, we’ve seen how corporations pollute our working class immigrant communities and walk away unscathed. We’re sick and tired of these injustices and demand the U.S. DOJ oppose Exide’s proposal to abandon its highly contaminated Vernon site.”
“The State of California had a deal with Exide, but now the federal administration seems ready to let them walk away from their responsibilities,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood). “We must stand up to prevent future toxic disasters. Exide must pay for the damage it has done to the environment and to our communities.”
“The communities surrounding the former Exide lead-acid battery recycling facility in Vernon demand the cleanup of the site,” said Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles). “Exide is using a bankruptcy filing to wash its hand clean of responsibility and the U.S. Department of Justice is in favor of allowing it to abandon the site and evade environmental responsibilities. We cannot allow these bad actors to pollute our communities and walk away without paying the price. They polluted our land, they need to remediate it. We will not stand down!”
“I am strongly opposed to the proposed settlement between Exide and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “It fails to hold Exide and its predecessors accountable for decades of environmental contamination caused by the Vernon facility in the surrounding communities of Boyle Heights, Maywood, East Los Angeles, Commerce, Bell, and Huntington Park – all of which I represent. I urge the Federal Government to extend the public comment period on this matter and hold a public hearing so that community residents can voice their concerns and be heard. 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.”
"Today, elected officials across Los Angeles came together in our shared mission to secure justice for the victims of Exide’s recklessness,” said Congressman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles). “For far too long, Exide has poisoned communities of color and immigrant communities with toxic contaminants like lead and arsenic, serving as a stark reminder that the fight for environmental justice and racial justice are inextricably linked. It’s time for Donald Trump’s Justice Department to stop ceding to corporate polluters like Exide and finally hold them accountable for the devastation they unleashed on our most vulnerable residents."
In August of 2018, Assemblymember Carrillo, alongside Speaker Anthony Rendon and various legislators, convened a hearing on Exide Technologies in the community which was attended by hundreds of local residents Last year, Assemblymember Carrillo introduced Assembly Bill 1500 to allow the temporary suspension of a facility if it poses an imminent or substantial threat to the public health and safety of the local communities. This legislation is a direct result of district-focused legislation aimed at providing safeguard measures to ensure environmental disasters, such as what occurred with Exide Technologies, never happen again in the future. The bill was held in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo was elected as the representative of the 51st Assembly District in December of 2017. She is a member of the Health, Appropriations, Utilities & Energy, Privacy and Consumer Protections, Labor and Rules Committees. Carrillo represents the people of East Los Angeles, Northeast Los Angeles, and the neighborhoods of El Sereno, Echo Park, Lincoln Heights, Chinatown and parts of Silver Lake.