Attorney General Bonta Files Motion to Intervene in Lawsuit to Protect Environmental Justice Communities in South Los Angeles
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today filed a motion to intervene in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s lawsuit against S&W Atlas Iron & Metal Company (Atlas Metal) for endangering the health and safety of environmental justice communities in South Los Angeles. Over several years, Atlas Metal’s operations are alleged to have been launching metal shards and projectiles into outdoor areas at Jordan High School. In that same time period, operations at the facility are also alleged to have resulted in incidents of noxious plumes of smoke, dust, and fumes being released into the surrounding community. Loud noise from the Atlas Metal site also negatively impacts the neighborhood and impedes the learning environments of Jordan High School. In today’s filings, Attorney General Bonta argues that Atlas Metal violated California’s public nuisance law, Health and Safety Code section 41700, and the Unfair Competition Law.
“Atlas Metal operates its facility in one of the most historically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the state — an area that is already overburdened by environmental pollution and suffering the resulting health consequences," said Attorney General Bonta. "It is utterly unacceptable that students from this neighborhood will have to endure metal projectiles, noxious smoke and dust, and distracting noise when they show up each day to learn. I want to thank City Attorney Mike Feuer for bringing this important case. It's going to take all of us working together to hold polluters accountable and protect communities that live at the intersection of poverty and pollution.”
“I welcome Attorney General Bonta joining our fight to stop the dangerous conditions at Atlas Metal, which pose a risk to high schoolers and school personnel just feet away,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. “This teamwork underscores that the fight for environmental justice requires all hands on deck. We're committed to ensuring that every family, every student, every worker, and every neighborhood has the safe and healthy conditions they deserve."
Atlas Metal has been operating a scrap metal recycling facility in the historically disadvantaged neighborhood of Watts in South Los Angeles since 1947. The facility accepts scrap metals and other recyclable materials for processing and sorting. Atlas Metal has a long history of hazardous and unlawful operations that have resulted in numerous enforcement actions by environmental and public health agencies, including the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, and the Los Angeles Fire Department.
The facility shares two borders with Jordan High School and is located within a short distance of a number of vulnerable communities, including several schools, residential neighborhoods, and the Jordan Downs Public Housing Complex. The communities surrounding Atlas Metal experience some of the highest pollution burdens in California — resulting in severe negative health consequences. According to CalEnviroScreen, the Watts neighborhood, in which the Atlas Facility is located, suffers cumulative environmental burdens in the 100th percentile compared to all other census tracts in California. Residents of Watts are also in the 92nd percentile for cardiovascular disease, the 89th percentile for asthma, and live, on average, 12 years less than those from the more affluent Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood.
On April 8, 2021, the Los Angeles City Attorney filed a lawsuit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking remedies and penalties for Atlas Metal’s unlawful operations. The City Attorney's complaint alleges that Atlas Metal violated California’s public nuisance law, the Los Angeles Municipal Code’s public nuisance law, and the Unfair Competition Law. Attorney General Bonta today filed to join this lawsuit, alleging that Atlas Metal has also violated Health and Safety Code section 41700, which protects communities from harmful emissions of air contaminants, in its operations.
Attorney General Bonta is committed to taking on corporate polluters, fighting environmental injustices throughout the state, and giving a voice to frontline communities who are all too often under-resourced and overburdened. Last month, Attorney General Bonta announced the expansion of the Bureau of Environmental Justice. You can find more information on the Bureau and its work at: https://oag.ca.gov/environment/justice.
A copy of the motion to intervene and complaint in intervention can be found here.