Today’s News: Plant to reopen despite arsenic worries; Ex-USC professor lands on ‘Most Wanted’ list; Bag ban

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Arsenic pollution. An L.A. judge says that a Vernon battery recycling plant accused of posing a health hazard to thousands of nearby residents can reopen pending a court hearing next month.

State officials had ordered the Exide Technologies plant to close in April. Regulators cited an AQMD report suggesting that the plant’s arsenic emissions posed a risk to more than 100,000 people in Maywood, Boyle Heights and Huntington Park.

But Exide argued that the plant was in compliance with state laws. And yesterday, a Superior Court judge said the public interest would not be harmed by allowing the plant to reopen until the issue can be settled.

Exide says it has reduced arsenic emissions from the plant by more than 70 percent in the past three years, according to the L.A. Times. The company filed for bankruptcy protection last week. It says the closure is costing it millions of dollars and keeping hundreds of employees out of work.

L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents Boyle Heights, says he’s disappointed by the court ruling. l.A. Times

Fugitive professor.
A former USC professor suspected of sexually molesting at least 10 children has been added to the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Walter Lee Williams, who taught anthropology and gender studies at USC, fled after being questioned by FBI agents two years ago. An indictment accuses Williams of engaging in sexual activity with two, 14-year-old Filipino boys through Internet webcams and in person. Williams is the 500th person to land on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. It’s not known if he’s still in the country. KTLA

Bag ban. The L.A. City Council is scheduled to vote today on whether to ban single-use plastic bags. The proposed law also calls for a 10-cent charge on paper bags, and dictates the types of reusable bags that stores can sell. The ban would take effect next January for large stores, while smaller ones would have until July of next year. L.A. County and cities like San Francisco and Santa Monica already have plastic bag bans in place. L.A. Daily News

Health services. A proposal by the AIDS HealthCare Foundation to create a new city health department would cost L.A. taxpayers more than $330 million a year, with less than a quarter of that money being made up in fees. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana says in a new report that despite the high cost, creating a health department separate from the county would not provide L.A. residents with all the services they need. The AHF submitted a petition with more than 70,000 signatures asking the L.A. City Council to either create a new department or put the issue to voters. The council voted against the idea and has until July 2 to decide whether to place the issue on a ballot. L.A. Daily News

Right-hand woman. L.A. mayor-elect Eric Garcetti has picked longtime aide Ana Guerrero as his chief of staff. Guerrero has worked for Garcetti since 200. For the past five years, she’s been the chief of staff of his City Council office. Previously, she worked for an agency that helps immigrants become naturalized citizens. Guerrro, 42, is the daughter of migrant farm workers from Mexico. L.A. Times

Teaching teachers. A Washington, D.C.-based education group says that teacher training programs at California universities are among the worst in the country. The National Council on Teacher Quality singles out graduate programs at UCLA and Loyola Marymount University as being especially flawed. The group says California schools in general are more likely to accept low-achieving students and less likely to provide feedback on such skills as managing students in the classroom. Officials from both schools dispute the findings. One of the leading funders for the study was the L.A.-based Broad Foundation. U.S. News & World Report, L.A. Times