Plano senator takes fight for Frisco plant regulations to Austin hearing

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on April 7, 2011 at 5:11 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 7 at 7:11 PM

FRISCO - A bill filed by Sen. Florence Shapiro, of Plano, to regulate the Exide Technologies battery plant in Frisco got its first committee hearing in Austin Thursday.

The bill would regulate the plant, cleaning up pollution that has caused widespread health concerns.

Exide in Frisco is one of only a handful of plants in the country that exceeds federal safety levels for lead emissions. The facility is surrounded by homes, schools and businesses that didn't exist when the battery plant was built 47 years ago.

Exide has pledged $15 million to comply with federal emission guidelines. Now, Shapiro has proposed a bill that would make sure the company complies, and on a deadline.

"It is critical that steps be taken to protect the citizens of Frisco," she said.

Senate Bill 1475 would significantly reduce pollution and increase air and health monitoring around the site. Hundreds of Frisco residents have already taken advantage of free blood testing for lead levels.

"Other chemicals being emitted are also a great risk to human health," said Laura Plunkett, a health risk administrator. "There's cadmium; there's arsenic, both of which are heavy metals that also stick around for a long time in the environment."

At a Natural Resources Committee meeting streamed via the web from Austin, city leaders and hired experts testified why they believe a law is needed.

"Our citizens are scared," said Mayor Maher Maso, of Frisco.

Exide officials say the proposed bill sets an unfair precedent for other industries.

"We oppose the legislation on the grounds that it is overly burdensome," said Bruce Cole, president of Exide.

The company has promised to comply with or without a law.

Lead exposure can cause learning problems and low IQs.

The bill was left pending, which means it wasn't approved for a full Senate hearing. There is always a chance it could be attached to another bill later in the session.

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