Tesla sued for allegedly mishandling hazardous waste in California for years

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Tesla has been sued by 25 California counties alleging the automaker has repeatedly mishandled hazardous waste at facilities throughout the state. The lawsuit was filed after months of settlement talks apparently fell apart.

The complaint, filed in San Joaquin County Superior Court, states that Tesla improperly labeled and disposed of materials like “lead acid batteries and other batteries,” paints, brake fluid, aerosols, antifreeze, acetone, diesel fuel, and more at its production and service facilities throughout the state. Tesla also allegedly improperly disposed of the waste, both on-site and at landfills that can’t accept hazardous waste.

The District Attorneys in each county are seeking an injunction to force Tesla to properly handle the waste at the facilities going forward as well as civil penalties. Tesla could be on the hook for as much as $70,000 per violation per day, according to Reuters, which first reported the suit.

Tesla first revealed in a 2022 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it was being investigated by District Attorney offices from around the state of California over its waste management practices. The company said it “had implemented various remedial measures, including conducting training and audits, and enhancements to its site waste management programs.”

In October 2023, the company said it was in settlement talks with those District Attorney offices. The lawsuit suggests those talks ended without a resolution. Representatives for the San Francisco and San Joaquin District Attorney’s offices, which led the investigation, did not immediately answer a question about what happened to the settlement talks.

Tesla has previously been scrutinized for the environmental impact of the work it does in California. The company settled with the Environmental Protection Agency in 2019 over a number of violations at its Fremont, California factory, one of which included the labeling of hazardous waste. That resulted in a $31,000 fine and a $55,000 layout to cover the cost of emergency response equipment for first responders. Tesla also paid a $275,000 fine in 2022 for violating the Clean Air Act at the same factory.

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