MUNCIE, Ind. – Exide Technologies filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Code recovery requests, put its assets up for sale and notified the status of the potential closure of its Muncie battery recycling plant.
“. . . . , supervised process offers the best opportunity to continue to provide high quality energy storage solutions and services to our customers, ”said Tim Vargo, CEO of the global battery manufacturing company, quoted in a recent press release.
Exide is burdened with hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental liabilities across the country.
The Muncie plant, which provides approximately 180 jobs, is one of only two remaining sites in the United States where Exide still recycles used lead-acid batteries for automobiles, trucks, golf carts, forklifts, gas boats. engine and other batteries.
A heavy metal, lead is particularly dangerous for children, and high levels of lead and arsenic can be found in the air and soil near facilities that recycle batteries.
Chronology:Three decades of Exide in Muncie
For now at least, the Muncie plant remains in operation, and it could continue to do so.
“It is important to note that the Chapter 11 filing announced by Exide is intended to facilitate a process of strategic sale of its North American assets,” spokeswoman Melissa Floyd told The Star Press. “Exide continues to operate as usual and has secured funding that will provide sufficient liquidity to support ongoing operations.”
But in a recent worker retraining and notification law (WARN Act) notice sent to the State, Exide said: “If the company does not enter into a deal with a buyer to sell the business, the company currently expects it to be forced into downsizing or shutting down. factories.
“Alternatively, if the business enters into an agreement with a buyer to sell the business, the buyer can choose not to continue to operate the business as a going concern or to offer employment to all employees. of the company.
“Accordingly, we are providing you today with a conditional notice under the WARN Act and any related state law of a potential ‘plant shutdown’ or ‘mass dismissal’ that may occur in the during the two week period starting July 21, 2020 or within two weeks. thereafter, with possible additional layoffs continuing thereafter at 2601 W. Mt. Pleasant Blvd., Muncie, Indiana. “
If such a closure or mass layoff occurs, the company expects such actions to be
permanent and will affect the entire Muncie facility.
The notice lists around 180 jobs in Muncie, including 19 environmental employees; three health and safety officers; and six bag filter operators (pollution control); as well as 24 kiln operators, 19 circuit breakers / battery operators, 23 refinery operators and a number of electricians, janitors, technicians, production operators / supervisors, clerks, yard and yard operators. other positions.
The company also notified Brad Plank, the main elected official of Local 1048 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, of the potential layoffs / closures.
A bankruptcy court has authorized Exide to pay employees in the usual way and to continue their health and welfare benefit programs; continue to manufacture and deliver products to customers; and paying suppliers for goods and services provided to the business in the event of bankruptcy. The bankruptcy petitions were filed in the state of Delaware.
The court also provisionally approved $ 40 million in “debtor-in-charge financing” from a group of lenders to provide sufficient liquidity to support ongoing operations in North America during the life of the sale and lease. restructuring.
Exide has approximately $ 817 million in debt and hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental issues, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The company closed battery recycling plants in Frisco, Texas; Vernon, California; Reading, Pennsylvania, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The bankruptcy court’s list of creditors with the 30 largest unsecured claims includes the California Department of Toxic Substances Control ($ 10.9 million in regulatory fees and government obligations). Heritage Environmental Services, Cleveland, and Remediation Services, Independence, Mo., are also on the list.
In February 2018, nearly 30 citizens – some with disposable dust masks strapped to their faces – marched down Mount Pleasant Boulevard past the Muncie plant, where millions of automotive and other lead-acid batteries are recycled each year.
The rally was staged after the Indiana Department of Environmental Management refused to hold a public hearing on Exide’s request to renew its operating license for another five years.
Protesters chanted calls for clean air, clean water, clean soil, environmental justice and testing.
One of them, environmental activist Deborah Malitz, told The Star Press on Monday: “We have no idea if they are going to close. If they leave, who will be responsible for the cleanup, if there? has a cleaning? question. “
The lead recovered by the Muncie plant is used by other plants to manufacture new batteries. The company claims to recycle more than 76,000 tonnes of lead per year in Muncie.
In addition to selling its North American business to the highest bidder, Exide’s bankruptcy strategy includes selling its businesses in Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) and Asia-Pacific to its long-standing lenders. .
“We believe this is an attractive company and we are already on a solid marketing process that includes active engagement with a number of potential strategic and financial buyers,” said Vargo, CEO of the company, in the press release. “We are delighted with the interest generated to date and look forward to continued discussions on the new property that will advance our business in North America, EMEA and Asia Pacific. I would like to thank all of our employees for their unwavering commitment and hard work during this time of transition.
Battery recycling prevents lead from being illegally dumped or dumped in landfills, and it is a substitute for virgin raw material.
But Exide did not always operate in accordance with state and federal aviation standards in Muncie.
For example, in 2015, the company agreed to pay a civil fine of $ 820,000 to settle a lawsuit accusing it of violating the Clean Air Act at its foundry in Muncie.
The violations resulted in increased emissions of lead and particulate matter (soot) and may have resulted in increased emissions of total hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds and dioxins / furans, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. .
Contact Seth Slabaugh at (765) 213-5834 or [email protected]