Tesla to Pay $1.5 Million to Settle Suit Over Alleged Illegal Waste Disposal

According to San Francisco’s district attorney, the company illegally disposed of hazardous substances such as lubricants, antifreeze, and waste solvents.
Tesla to Pay $1.5 Million to Settle Suit Over Alleged Illegal Waste Disposal
Tesla cars are parked in front of a Tesla showroom and service center in Burlingame, Calif., on May 20, 2019. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Marc Olson

Tesla has agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by 25 California counties alleging the carmaker illegally disposed of hazardous waste at its locations statewide.

“Today’s settlement against Tesla, Inc. serves to provide a cleaner environment for citizens throughout the state,” San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said in a press release Feb. 1.

Environmentalists were also pleased.

“We hope that something like this is enough of a slap on the wrist that it curbs that behavior in the future,” Lauren Weston of Acterra, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting climate change, told KTVU in the Bay Area.

The complaint accused Tesla of illegal waste disposal in the servicing and manufacturing of its vehicles.

The carmaker operates about 57 car service centers and 18 solar energy facilities throughout the state, and makes vehicles at its Fremont factory in Alameda County, the press release said.

The suit was brought by the 25 counties where those sites are located.

According to Ms. Jenkins’ statement, the case stems from a 2018 investigation of trash containers at Tesla service centers. A crew from the San Francisco district attorney’s environmental division discovered illegal disposal of hazardous auto components such as lubricants, antifreeze, and waste solvents.

Inspections in other counties found similar illegal disposals. In Alameda County, an examination of trash containers at the Fremont factory also discovered hazardous wastes including welding spatter, which can contain heavy metals.

Tesla cooperated with investigators and took steps to comply, the statement said.

The carmaker was ordered to pay $1.3 million in civil penalties and $200,000 to cover costs of the probe. It must also comply for five years with an injunction requiring proper training of employees and third-party audits of its trash containers at 10 percent of its facilities, the statement said.

Marc J. Olson is a longtime Southern California journalist who has worked at the San Diego Tribune, Orange County Register, and Los Angeles Times. He is originally from Minneapolis.
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