Tesla ordered to stop polluting Bay Area air with “frequent and continuous” toxic emissions – The Mercury News

A production associate works on a Tesla Model 3 at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Tesla has polluted the Bay Area’s air with harmful and toxic emissions from its Fremont electric car factory more than 100 times in the past five years. On Wednesday, local authorities ordered it stopped.

“Tesla’s continued violations at their Fremont facility pose a risk to public health and air quality in the surrounding community,” said Dr. Philip Fine, general manager of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which regulates pollution from factories and other stationary sources.

The automaker, led by notoriously anti-regulation CEO Elon Musk, has received more than 110 notices of violation since 2019 for allowing hazardous compounds and toxic contaminants to leak from paint spray booths and ovens. baking paint from the plant, the district said.

“Each of these violations can release hundreds of pounds of illegal air pollution, according to some estimates,” the district noted, describing the hazardous releases as “frequent and ongoing.”

Under orders from the air district’s independent hearing panel, Tesla must hire an outside consultant to conduct an assessment, provide recommendations and propose a plan to the board to resolve its pollution problem. The company must then execute a plan approved by the board of directors. The district did not include a timeline for the evaluation and compliance process.

The pollution in some cases comes from repeated failures of the plant’s emissions controls, combined with system designs that release toxic substances directly into the atmosphere even when they can still be captured, the district said. . At other times, Tesla stops pollution controls because of problems with other equipment in its painting services, according to the district.

Tesla, which made a profit of $17.7 billion last year according to regulatory filings, did not immediately respond to questions about how it would respond to the order and why it continues to release toxic products From the factory. The company also did not respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.

Even low levels of ozone created when the emitted substances encounter sunlight can harm health, especially for children, the elderly and asthmatics, the district said last month when it announced an investigation into Tesla pollution. Other escaped contaminants can cause cancer and, even at low levels, neurological damage and reproductive and developmental disorders, according to the regulatory agency.

The district said last month that it had a “thorough discussion” with Tesla, but that the company failed to stop the pollution.

Tesla was sued in federal court last month by an Oakland-based nonprofit, claiming that “significant and ongoing” emissions from the Fremont plant expose area residents and workers to harmful chemicals, including arsenic. The Environmental Democracy Project’s lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco cited “a long history of noncompliance with environmental laws” at the plant and accused Tesla of violating federal air quality rules more than 160 times between January 2021 and January 2024.

The Fremont factory, where Tesla makes its Models 3, X, Y and S, has long been the target of regulatory and legal action.

In February, eight Bay Area counties and 17 other counties across the state sued Tesla, claiming it illegally dumped hazardous waste produced at the factory and at its area auto service centers. District attorneys alleged in San Joaquin County Superior Court that the company violated laws on labeling, transportation and disposal of toxic materials.

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