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Exide to Stay Open During Hearing Process

A battery recycling plant in Vernon that was temporarily shut down by state environmental officials can remain open while administrative hearings about the company’s operation continue, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled on Tuesday.

The Exide Technologies plant was shut down April 24 in response to an order from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, citing health risks from arsenic emissions.

The company, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of lead-acid batteries, then filed for bankruptcy protection, saying it needed the supply of lead from the recycling plant to maintain its profitability.

On June 16, citing irreparable harm to the company, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin ruled that the plant could reopen. At a follow-up hearing on Tuesday, Lavin issued a preliminary injunction, upholding the initial ruling and allowing the plant to continue operating – noting that the company had made reductions in pollution generated at the facility.

The company employs about 130 people at the Vernon facility.

Some residents and elected officials representing the surrounding area have blasted the operation, contending it put people’s health at risk.

Last month, the county Board of Supervisors instructed its attorneys to prepare a report on legal steps the county could take in an effort to prevent toxic emissions from the plant.

Supervisor Gloria Molina, who led the effort, said the county will continue pushing to ensure that pollution from the plant is controlled.

“I recognize Exide’s due process rights, however, Exide has failed to comply with its obligations to operate a safe facility,” Molina said.

“Today’s ruling isn’t the end of the story – we will ensure that the regulatory agencies maintain their vigilance, and to protect the public’s health and safety, we will continue to explore all of our legal options,” she said. “It is my hope that as administrative actions continue, the authorities will uphold their order to shut down Exide for good.”

The company, which says it has reduced emissions by more than 70 percent since 2010, plans to work with the community to resolve the issue, according to an Exide statement issued last month.

The agency ordered Exide to find ways to reduce that risk, suggested installing wet electrostatic precipitators and set a deadline of Sept. 1 for a report back.