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Air regulators slam California Tesla factory for air pollution

A Tesla manufacturing plant in California has come under fire from local air quality regulators, who say the electric car maker frequently releases illegal amounts of air pollution.

Tesla’s manufacturing and assembly plant in Fremont has been cited for more than 110 air quality violations since 2019, more than double any other major facility in the Bay Area. Air district officials say the facility’s two paint shops have been the source of uncontrolled releases of smog-forming pollution and toxic chemicals over the years.

“Tesla’s repeated failure to comply with air quality regulations is unacceptable and increases the risk to public health,” Philip Fine, the air district’s general manager, said in a statement.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is now seeking an order from the agency’s quasi-judicial hearing panel to force Tesla to correct the problems.

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It’s an ironic turn of events for Tesla: America’s largest electric car maker is accused of deteriorating air quality and endangering public health. These violations are another black eye for the company’s co-founder and chief executive, Elon Musk, who said “Tesla has done more to help the environment than all other companies combined.”

Tesla’s Freemont factory, however, has already been cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violations involving toxic fumes emanating from leaking and improperly sealed automotive paints, primers and fluids.

Tesla representatives could not be reached for comment.

The Fremont plant was Tesla’s first factory, where the first Model S rolled off the assembly line in 2012. It opened in 1962 as a General Motors assembly plant.

The air district says frequent equipment failures and improper releases have occurred at Tesla’s paint shops, which include a series of spray paint booths and ovens that speed the drying process.

When the system is working properly, paint shops collect dangerous air pollution and essentially burn harmful chemicals. But frequent equipment breakdowns resulted in pollutants being released into the atmosphere.

In some cases, the air district claims these releases were avoidable, but Tesla programmed its operations to automatically shut down its pollution control system and illegally vent harmful emissions in certain situations.

In each of Tesla’s air quality violations, the company released up to 750 pounds of illegal pollution, according to air district estimates.

The air district wants a third-party engineering firm to investigate the incidents and come up with solutions. The proposed monitoring will be the subject of a meeting which has not yet been scheduled.

California Daily Newspapers

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