Tesla Inc on Thursday agreed to settle a civil environmental prosecution brought by district attorneys in 25 California counties.
A judge in San Joaquin County has ordered Tesla to pay $1.5 million as part of the settlement of a civil environmental prosecution lawsuit alleging the electric car company illegally disposed of hazardous waste at its car service centers, energy centers, and its factory in Fremont, according to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, which initiated an investigation of the car maker.
“While electric vehicles may benefit the environment, the manufacturing and servicing of these vehicles still generates many harmful waste streams,” said San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins in a Feb. 1 statement. “Today’s settlement against Tesla, Inc. serves to provide a cleaner environment for citizens throughout the state by preventing the contamination of our precious natural resources when hazardous waste is mismanaged and unlawfully disposed.”
In the complaint filed in San Joaquin County, the prosecutors jointly accusedTesla of illegally disposing of hazardous waste generated during its servicing and manufacturing of its electric vehicles in violation of California law establishing the proper control, storage, management, and disposal of hazardous waste.
Tesla, Inc., a Delaware Corporation, currently owns and operates approximately 57 car service centers and 18 solar energy facilities throughout California. It also manufactures electric vehicles at its Fremont Factory in Alameda County. The case was brought by district attorney offices in the California counties where Tesla’s factory, car service centers, and energy locations are located.
The company allegedly also produced toxic waste at 20 of its service centers in Bay Area cities including San Jose, Gilroy, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Berkeley, Dublin, Fremont, Burlingame, San Francisco and San Rafael.
The investigation, initiated by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Environmental Division, began in 2018 when San Francisco district attorney investigators conducted undercover inspections of Tesla’s trash containers at its car service centers, which revealed the illegal disposal of numerous used hazardous automotive components – lubricating oils, brake cleaners, lead acid and other batteries, aerosols, antifreeze, waste solvents and other cleaners, electronic waste, waste paint, and contaminated debris.
Following this discovery, investigators from Alameda, Monterey, Orange, Placer, Riverside, San Diego, and San Joaquin counties conducted additional inspections at Tesla, Inc.’s car service centers throughout California and found similar unlawful disposals.
Alameda County District Attorney investigators also conducted waste inspections of trash containers at the Fremont Factory and found Tesla’s unlawful disposal of additional hazardous wastes, including metal car panel welding spatter waste (which can contain copper), waste paint mix cups produced during paint repair and wipes/debris contaminated with primer. Jenkins said in a press release that Tesla cooperated with the investigations and took steps to improve its compliance with the environmental protection laws brought to its attention by the prosecutors. After Tesla was notified of the issues, they began quarantining and screening trash containers for hazardous waste at all of its service centers before trash was brought to the landfill.
As part of the settlement, Tesla, Inc. is ordered to pay $1.3 million in civil penalties and $200,000 to reimburse the costs of the investigation.
Tesla is also ordered to comply with a detailed injunction for five years, which includes proper training of employees and the hiring of a third party to conduct annual waste audits of its trash containers at ten percent of its facilities. These audits will occur each year for five years and auditors will examine trash containers for hazardous waste.