This is friggin’ madness

So, we’re all to use more batteries. In our cars, to store solar power, to stor wind power etc.

So, they’re closing battery recycling plants on environmental grounds:

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control said Thursday it would issue an order to begin the shutdown of the embattled Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon.

The announcement comes as federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials prepared to join Vernon representatives Thursday morning outside the U.S. attorney’s office in downtown L.A. to announce the closure of the plant.

Under a deal between federal officials and the company, Exide acknowledges criminal conduct, including the illegal storage and transportation of hazardous waste but will avoid prosecution in exchange for shutting down, demolishing and cleaning its 15-acre battery recycling plant about five miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

Facepalm.

The agreement calls for the immediate closure of the battery recycling facility and estimates that Exide’s direct costs of compliance are well in excess of $100 million, including the company walking away from recent improvements to the facility and incurring new costs for lead and plastic that must now be purchased to manufacture new batteries.

Seriously, anyone think that the environmental costs of producing virgin lead are going to be less than recycling it?

It’s entirely possible that this plant wasn’t well run, I’ve no information about that. But to insist on ever greater battery use while closing down the recycling plants is just mad.

And no, lithium batteries won’t be any different. You still need to recycle them.

23 thoughts on “This is friggin’ madness”

  1. Crucial word in this is ‘California’.

    But we sure as hell won’t be using lead-acid batteries in our electric cars. That would be ‘mad’.

  2. …lithium batteries won’t be any different…
    The main concern with this plant seems to be lead and arsenic contamination. There’s nothing like that in lithium-ion batteries. You’d need to handle the electrolyte carefully, but that’s a different sort of problem.

  3. “No evidence?”

    There is an article, which you cited to support your opinion, which details why this plant is being shut down. It was polluting the surrounding area. I think that means it wasn’t “well run.”

  4. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Not necessarily. It might be begging the question that they are “polluting” per se. We don’t know what the criteria are for assessing the pollution released into the surroundings. They may not be realistic or realisable, since environmental legislation as promulgated by Greens/Leftists need bear only a tangential relationship with real world issues like cost/benefit etc.. Recycling plants are notorious for being polluters. A non-trivial numbers of sites on the US Superfund list are paper recycling plants, for example. If you mandate a certain technology, and you mandate that it be recyclable, and you mandate certain pollution criteria then there may be no way to square the circle.

  5. This is California which wants the smog caused by automobiles in LA to pollute Colorado instead by using electric cars using electricity immported fromcoal-fired power stations.
    Tony is correct up to a point – the article says that the plant was polluting *but* they had to pass a special law to close it down which means it wasn’t breaking any of the Federal or State laws for the 92 years it was operating. California has quite tough laws on pollution (a decade ago automobile manufacturers complained that the law required the air coming out of new cars in LA had to be cleaner than the air going into the car’s air input system) and the Exide plant hadn’t been prosecuted under asny of these. It was charged with illegal transportation and storage of used car bastteries. The allegedly massive pollution over 90-odd years will cost less than $50m to clear up. Petty cash by US standards.
    So: badly run? Depends on whether you’ve got an election coming up and want to grandstand. Note that the local resident is complaining about the smell which had been around for 80-odd years before she moved in.

  6. Lithium batteries won’t be recycled, at least not for the near term future. Considering the abundance of Lithium and the cost of recovering it from batteries using lots of mechanical & chemical processes, it won’t happen. Not until there is some standardisation in their makeup to allow recycling anywhere using the same process, rather than a multitude of different processes.

  7. So Much for Subtlety

    Under a deal between federal officials and the company, Exide acknowledges criminal conduct, including the illegal storage and transportation of hazardous waste

    The illegal storage and transportation of hazardous waste? That would be them not doing their paperwork properly? What waste would they store or transport apart from some batteries? I suspect every single person here has been guilty of that crime at some point.

    So now some Mexicans will get to enjoy living next to a recycling plant. And no doubt Exide will comply with the stringent Mexican waste regulations. How this advances the cause of humanity I am not sure.

  8. @ SMFS
    As I pointed out, it is precisely the used batteries that are (defined as) hazardous waste.
    “I suspect every single person here has been guilty of that crime at some point.” No, you are wrong I have never transported or stored a used car battery except while it was a working battery in my car so not defined, pro tem, as waste. I store lots of stuff, including – to the vast annoyance of my wife – 20-odd years of investment research written by me and 40-odd years of actuarial journals written by other people, but no hazardous waste whatsoever.
    You just need to rephrase – “what on earth is wrong with storing hazardous waste as long as you dispose of it safely” which Exide seem to have done since the cost of cleaning up a site that was run for 78 years under lower environmental standards before they bought it in 2000 is estimated at a relatively triivial $38.6m.

  9. I have to disagree on this one Tim. Up to $50m worth of damage to the land and surrounding population, that means you can’t just bring in new owners or management to run it properly, it has to close and the problems be rectified. Maybe the equipment can be sold and someone start up a new plant in a more suitable location and run it properly.

    There are a lot of cowboys in the waste business as there is a lot of money to be made from illegal operation, but there is also good money to be made from doing it properly, someone will open another plant and hopefully do the job well.

    It doesn’t automatically follow that we should allow a poorly performing site to stay open, no matter how badly it does its job, just because it calls itself a battery recycling plant and we happen to want to recycle batteries.

    It’s like opening a business and calling it a ‘restaurant’ selling cheap steaks laced with arsenic, there may be some initial nourishment, but society would be better served if you fucked off and left it to someone who knows what they are doing.

  10. @SMFS
    ” That would be them not doing their paperwork properly?”

    Sometimes operating illegally can simply be a matter of not having the correct form, but sometimes it is

    “storing lead-contaminated hazardous waste inside leaking van trailers on a number of occasions over the past two decades”
    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/03/12/usa-energy-exide-idUKL1N0WE1OX20150312

    With clean up costs estimated at $50m, this goes a bit beyond having the right piece of paper.

  11. Lithium batteries won’t be recycled, at least not for the near term future. Considering the abundance of Lithium and the cost of recovering it from batteries using lots of mechanical & chemical processes, it won’t happen.
    They won’t be recycled for the lithium in the near future, but the metal in the cathode may be worth recovering.

  12. So Much for Subtlety

    john77 – “No, you are wrong I have never transported or stored a used car battery except while it was a working battery in my car so not defined, pro tem, as waste.”

    I think I may still have an old battery in my garage. Left there by a relative I might add. I have certainly, in the distant past, transported one from my home to re-cycling. I would not be surprised if that puts me in violation of the same laws.

    magnusw – ““storing lead-contaminated hazardous waste inside leaking van trailers on a number of occasions over the past two decades””

    So they have some workers who, for some undisclosed fee, will claim that they left some batteries in a truck over night?

    Lead-contaminated hazardous waste being batteries, right? Van trailers? They brought them to the site and did not process them right then and there? A number of occasions? Sounds like disgruntled workers to me. This is not a Chernobyl-scale event is it?

    “With clean up costs estimated at $50m, this goes a bit beyond having the right piece of paper.”

    The site has been in operation since 1922. It is next to impossible that the clean up costs for the damage done from 1922-1945 won’t be huge. In California, $50 million is the cost of the paperwork. Getting the lawyers to cross all the “t”s and dot all the “i”s. It means that essentially there is little to no risk to human health.

  13. So Much for Subtlety

    This is what a real lead problem looks like:

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/12/19/lead-smelter-cleanup-liabilities/1766747/

    The costs can be staggering: Cleaning the yard around one home in Portland, Ore., will cost up to $90,000, regulators say, and will involve removing 20 tons of lead- and arsenic-contaminated soil. The EPA has spent nearly $250 million addressing contamination around more than 10,000 homes near a large lead smelter in Omaha.

    Notice that article says it cost a company $2 million just to test the soil around its site for lead.

  14. If the world was run by the likes of Worstall it would legal to shoot someone who called you a smarmy wee git

  15. @ magnusw
    Many Lloyds reinsurance policies for pollution have an “excess” of $100million – i.e. any claimfor less than $100m in restitution costs doesn’t even get reported to the Reinsurer. So Exide has provisionsof $38.6m (which is presumably an upoper limit of expected cost, so far higher than the best estimate) including the fdamage done in the 78 years before it bought the site.
    Now can I ask you to read what I ACTUALLY said “less than $50m”? I am currently thoroughly pissed off with someone who is rabidly criticising a piece of work I did earlier with comments that show that he hasn’t read it properly.Two jerks in one day is too many.

  16. “Sounds like disgruntled workers to me.”

    You do know the company admitted the offences?

    “This is not a Chernobyl-scale event is it?”
    Because fortunately, not living in Soviet Ukraine, we try not to sit around waiting for disasters before we take action.

    Why are you bothering to defend them? They fucked up, they admitted it.

    “Exide has acknowledged criminal conduct, including the illegal storage, illegal disposal, illegal shipment and illegal transportation of hazardous waste. For example, in the NPA “ Exide admits that it knowingly and willfully caused the shipment of hazardous waste contaminated with lead and corrosive acid in leaking van trailers owned by Wiley Sanders Truck Line, Inc. and operated by Lutrel Trucking, Inc. and KW Plastics of California, Inc., from the [Vernon] facility to Bakersfield, California, a significant number of times over the past two decades, in violation of federal law.”

    Leaving aside the environmental impact, if operating under UK law they could be prosecuted for breaching the CDG Regs and/or HASWA.

    Their plant was clearly operating without effective management control, which is unacceptable when dealing with hazardous materials.

    PS, you are allowed to transport your own waste without a permit.

  17. Exide has acknowledged criminal conduct, including the illegal storage, illegal disposal, illegal shipment and illegal transportation of hazardous waste.

    Yes, but this is the US. In the USSR they would beat confessions out of people, in the US they perform disgraceful tricks like count individual emails on the same subject as separate cases of wire fraud and threaten executives with 968 years in prison unless they cop a plea.

  18. That’s odd. Because I know people who run a lithium battery recycling plant. It’s not economic at all: but you’re not allowed to dump them into landfill either.

  19. So Much for Subtlety

    magnusw – “You do know the company admitted the offences?”

    This is California. It is part of an extortion effort by the government. They had to admit liability or they would have been pushed into bankruptcy. That is not a genuine admission of anything.

    “Because fortunately, not living in Soviet Ukraine, we try not to sit around waiting for disasters before we take action.”

    The threat from a well run battery recycling plant is not nil. I wouldn’t want my children growing up next to one. But it is not that great either. Most of what the company is paying for is damage done before they bought the plant.

    “Why are you bothering to defend them? They fucked up, they admitted it.”

    All those Trotskyite Cosmopolitans confessed too.

    “Their plant was clearly operating without effective management control, which is unacceptable when dealing with hazardous materials.”

    They trucked material to their plant. Big frickin’ deal.

  20. So Much for Subtlety

    Tim Worstall – “Because I know people who run a lithium battery recycling plant. It’s not economic at all: but you’re not allowed to dump them into landfill either.”

    Which is a little unfair because lithium recycling has one great advantage – when they leak into the water table everyone is really relaxed about it and no one complains.

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