People living near a controversial lead battery recycling plant in Vernon demanded answers from regulators and lawmakers about the facility's future during a tense four hour meeting Tuesday.
The government shutdown kept the Environmental Protection Agency away from the meeting. But the head of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, Debbie Raphael, showed up to face an angry crowd of nearly two hundred in the auditorium of Resurrection Catholic Church in Boyle Heights.
On Monday Raphael's agency announced it planned to drop efforts to close the plant operated by Exide Technologies. In exchange, Exide agreed to set aside nearly $8 million to clean up toxic pollution, limit future emissions, and provide blood screenings to concerned residents.
Raphael defended the agreement, stressing that Exide contributes jobs to the community. But she said that wasn't more important than operating safely.
State officials suspended operations at the Exide Technologies in Vernon, Calif. in April due to emissions of arsenic that could pose a health risk to 110,000 people in nearby communities. The plant is now reopened.
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control announced that it has reached a deal with embattled battery recycler Exide Technologies that will allow the company to keep its Vernon plant open.
Brian Johnson, chief of the department’s hazardous waste management program, says DTSC will issue an order requiring Exide to clean up leaky stormwater pipes and control toxic substances in air emissions.
“[The order] includes requirements that go beyond out initial concerns,” Johnson said in a conference call. Those requirements will help “identify potential impacts the facility may have had on surrounding communities,” he said.
TIMELINE: Exide's shutdown in Vernon
Earlier this spring, toxics officials identified those two problems as health hazards to workers in the area and the community at large. Air emissions of lead and arsenic are raising cancer risks in the area, according to a study released by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The company’s own inspection video identified leaks in stormwater pipes, used at times for wastewater. That could lead to toxic chemicals seeping into the surrounding soil.
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An US Park Ranger sets up a sign announcing the closure of Joshua Tree National Park, in Joshua Tree, California, due to the government shutdown.
The National Park Services reported that vandals cut locks at two sites in the Santa Monica Mountains Friday night, after park officials limited access to the national recreation area due to a red flag warning. Signs at Rancho Sierra Vista in Newbury Park and Cheeseboro – Palo Comado Canyons in Agoura Hills noted the risk of fire. According to a written statement released by Superintendent David Szymanski, “it appears that the gates were vandalized in response to the Federal government shutdown.”
Twenty-six properties in the national parks system remain closed in California. As federal furloughs continue, conservationists have warned of the risk of environmental harm there, too.
As for the dozens of biological and ecological monitoring projects on shuttered federal lands – they’re shut down too.
A sign notes the relationship the city of Whittier has developed with Matrix Oil to develop oil drilling in the Puente Hills.
The fate of plans to drill for oil on 30 acres of conservation land in Whittier remained uncertain Tuesday after a court proceeding ended without a final ruling.
The parties in the case had anticipated a final ruling Tuesday. Whatever Judge Chalfant decides, lawyers for all sides say appeals are likely. The question of whether drilling can go forward on designated open space won't be put to bed any time soon.
RELATED: Public officials, activists await court ruling about oil drilling in Whittier hills
The conservation land was paid for with money raised by a property tax L.A. county voters approved 20 years ago. Under an agreement with the county's open space district, the city of Whittier promised not to sell the land or change how it was used, without the county's consent.
In Arizona, the Navajo Generating Station is a coal-fired power plant consuming up to 25,000 tons of coal per day that serves the LADWP, among others.
Federal regulators are proposing new limits on carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants. Those kind of rules are old news in California.
What the Environmental Protection Agency proposes to do could make coal-fired power plants extinct. But the price tag alone on a new coal plant is already a cause for utilities to pause – and California’s existing regulations are in part to blame for that.
Seven years ago, the Golden State set limits on greenhouse gas emissions for new power plants. And earlier rules aimed at smog pollution made building coal-fired plants all but impossible in California.
Now the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is taking steps to eliminate coal from its energy mix. Southern California Edison has a small stake in a coal plant in the Four Corners region of the southwest. Both those utilities are following California’s AB 32 mandate, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions around 30 percent by 2020.