Agreement may allow Exide to reopen California smelter

Battery manufacturer and recycler says proposed air quality standards “are a step forward.”

July 11, 2014
Recycling Today Staff
Legislation & Regulations Nonferrous

Battery maker Exide Technologies says new environmental protections announced by California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) Hearing Board may allow the company “to make enhancements” at its Vernon, California, end-of-life lead-acid battery smelter that will allow it to reopen.

“The new orders from AQMD are a significant and positive step forward for our employees, the community and the recycling industry,” says Thomas Strang, Exide vice president of environment, health and safety — Americas. “Exide is committed to meeting the new air quality standards.
“Completing this plan will enhance the environmental performance of our Vernon facility and allow us to resume our role as part of California’s green economy," he adds. 
The Vernon facility is one of just two plants in the United States west of the Rocky Mountains that smelts and recycles car batteries. The plant recycles about 25,000 batteries per day and about 8 million batteries each year, Excide says. 
In light of AQMD’s new orders, Exide, headquartered in Milton, Georgia, says it is extending the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notifications sent to more than 100 employees at its Vernon facility. 
The WARN Act requires most employers with 100 or more employees to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs. The act also requires that notice be given to employees' representatives, the local chief elected official and the state dislocated worker unit.
The Hearing Board’s decision resolves two abatement petitions pending against Exide as well as the lawsuit filed by Exide challenging an AQMD rule. Exide has agreed to the terms of the two new “Orders for Abatement” that were approved by the AQMD Hearing Board on July 10, 2014.
Under those orders, Exide cannot resume operations of its Vernon facility furnaces until it installs additional air quality control equipment to comply with newly adopted standards. Exide also will submit monthly progress reports to the Hearing Board on its planned upgrades and will dismiss its lawsuit challenging the adopted standards.
Production at Exide’s Vernon recycling facility has been idle since March 2014. Exide says the implementation of its enhancement plan is the first step toward returning the facility to full production.
“Battery recycling is critical to environmental sustainability,” the company says in a news release announcing its intention to work under the amended rule. Exide Technologies says it has been producing and recycling lead acid batteries for more than 120 years “and plays an important role in fostering California's green economy and promoting environmental sustainability.”
To view background on the AQMD’s efforts in regards to Exide’s facility, click here.