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Exide’s latest bid to avoid additional liability for poisoning L.A. County communities

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For decades, the negligent operators of Exide Technologies, a battery recycling facility, emitted lead, arsenic and other toxic contaminants into people’s homes, communities and the environment.



a close up of clouds in the sky: In 2015, Exide Technologies agreed to close this Vernon recycling plant permanently. But cleanup goes on. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)


© (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
In 2015, Exide Technologies agreed to close this Vernon recycling plant permanently. But cleanup goes on. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Hundreds of millions of dollars, much of it fronted by taxpayers, has been spent on cleanup so far, and the extent of the toxic devastation caused by the company still isn’t fully known. Yet Exide is asking for — and may well receive — permission to walk away from all future liability.

Ever since the contamination was discovered, Exide has worked to evade its full responsibility to Californians. The company failed to comply with environmental regulations, then largely escaped liability for its actions by hiding behind a 2015 non-prosecution agreement it entered into with the federal Department of Justice. It failed to complete a court-ordered study to determine the extent of its pollution. And now it is attempting to use the bankruptcy process to abandon the Vernon facility completely.

California is facing an uphill battle to prevent Exide’s latest move, because bankruptcy laws are firmly stacked in favor of corporate polluters. And the federal DOJ has made clear it intends to sit by and allow Exide to abandon its toxic Vernon facility.

If this happens, the affected communities around the plant will have been harmed once by Exide, then again by federal bankruptcy laws

If Exide is allowed to abandon the site, this highly contaminated property will be left with no owner capable of securing the site and continuing to clean it up. If not properly managed, the shuttered facility could release lead dust into surrounding neighborhoods. Effectively, the site