Tesla Settles California Hazardous Waste Mismanagement Case With $1.5 Million Fine

Tesla has agreed to pay a $1.5 million settlement over allegations of mishandling hazardous waste across its California facilities. The lawsuit, brought forward by district attorneys from 25 counties, accused Tesla of improper disposal and labeling of hazardous materials, including spent lead acid batteries, paints, and lubricants used in vehicle manufacturing and servicing.

The settlement includes a $1.3 million penalty and $200,000 to cover investigation costs. Additionally, the settlement not only seeks to rectify past mismanagement but also aims to prevent future violations. The company is mandated to adhere to a detailed injunction for the next five years, which includes employee training and the hiring of a third party to conduct annual waste audits at 10% of its facilities, according to a press release from the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.

While electric vehicles may benefit the environment, the manufacturing and servicing of these vehicles still generates many harmful waste streams. 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. We are proud to work with our district attorney partners to enforce California’s environmental laws to ensure these hazardous wastes are handled properly.

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins (via CNBC)

The investigation, started by the Environmental Division of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office in 2018, involved undercover examinations by investigators of the waste bins at Tesla’s Service Centers, of which there are 57 in California. These inspections uncovered the unlawful dumping of a variety of hazardous automotive materials, including lubricating oils, brake cleaners, lead acid and other types of batteries, aerosols, antifreeze, solvent wastes, electronic scraps, discarded paint, and debris tainted with these substances.

This is not Tesla’s first brush with environmental regulatory issues. In 2022, the company settled with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for $275,000 over violations of air toxic emission standards at its Fremont plant.

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