The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week it has reached a settlement with Tesla Motors Inc for Clean Air Act violations at the company’s automobile manufacturing plant in Fremont.
Under the settlement, Tesla agreed to pay a $275,000 penalty for failing to curb air pollution at the facility.
“Today’s enforcement action against Tesla reflects EPA’s continued commitment to ensure compliance with federal clean air laws,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman in a statement released Feb. 22. “EPA takes seriously every company’s obligation to safeguard our environment and protect our most vulnerable communities.”
People living in communities that are near sources of hazardous air pollutants may face significant risks to their health and environment, the EPA said in a press release.
EPA reported that approximately 60,000 households are within five miles of the Tesla plant.
The list of hazardous air pollutants, or “air toxics”, includes over 180 chemicals that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects. Tesla’s facility applied coating materials containing formaldehyde, ethylbenzene, naphthalene, and xylene.
Based on several information requests to Tesla, EPA determined that the company violated federal Clean Air Act regulations known as National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Surface Coating of Automobiles and Light-Duty Trucks from October 2016 through September 2019 by:
- Failing to develop and/or implement a work practice plan to minimize hazardous air pollutants emissions from the storage and mixing of materials used in vehicle coating operations.
- Failing to correctly perform required monthly emissions calculations needed to demonstrate that the facility’s coating operations complied with federal hazardous air pollutant standards.
- Failing to collect and keep all required records associated with the calculation of the hazardous air pollutants emission rate for Tesla’s coating operations.
This settlement aligns with EPA’s National Compliance Initiative, Creating Cleaner Air for Communities by Reducing Excess Emissions of Harmful Pollutants.
Compliance monitoring is used by the EPA to ensure that the regulated community follows environmental laws and regulations. The Tesla settlement “is another example of the agency’s years-long compliance oversight of this facility.” the agency said in a statement.
It reported that “Tesla has corrected the violations noted in both settlements and returned to compliance.”
Tesla did not comment on the EPA fine.
The Los Angeles TImes reported this week that Tesla has been a repeat violator of air pollution limits at the Fremont plant. In 2019, the EPA fined the company $31,000 for hazardous waste violations and required it to pay $55,000 to the Fremont Fire Department for emergency response equipment. At least four fires have broken out at the paint shop.
In May 2021, Tesla was fined $1 million by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District after 33 violation notices, including pollution emissions that exceeded Tesla’s permit thresholds.
The Fremont plant has also been in the news lately after the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit Feb. 9 regarding civil rights violations stemming from allegations of racism and sexual harassment aimed mostly at Black workers.