Southern California environment news and trends

Troubled battery-recycling plant owner Exide Technologies files for Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection

Exide

Mae Ryan/KPCC

State officials shut down operations at Exide Technologies in Vernon, Calif. in April due to toxic air pollution that may pose health risks to members of the surrounding community. The plant is now open again.

The owner of a troubled lead-battery recycling plant in Vernon has filed for bankruptcy protection.

Exide Technologies reported $1.9 billion in assets and $1.1 billion in liabilities as of the end of last quarter. By entering Chapter 11, the company is likely to avoid paying off maturing bonds and payments for debt interest, both due later this year.

The state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control shuttered Exide’s Vernon plant in April. DTSC justified its suspension order two ways. First, a health risk assessment prepared by regional air officials found sharply elevated cancer risk in the surrounding areas from arsenic emissions. Second, an inspection of the stormwater system at the facility revealed gashes in underground pipes rendering the system faulty.

Exide had filed a notice of defense to challenge the DTSC’s suspension. What was supposed to be a three-day hearing last week proved more complicated than lawyers anticipated. Now the Office of Administrative Hearings is seeking to schedule and complete the hearing sometime this summer.

Exide's stock has dropped precipitously over the last year, losing more than 90 percent of its value. News of the bankruptcy filing has sent it down further, with shares trading around 17 cents apiece as of mid-day Monday. 

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