Tesla and the 25 California counties that sued the automaker for mishandling hazardous waste at its facilities around the state have already reached an agreement just a few days after the lawsuit was filed. The court has ordered the automaker to pay $1.5 million as part of the settlement, which also includes hiring a third party to conduct annual waste audits of its trash containers for five years. These auditors will be taking a close look at the company's trash containers to check for hazardous materials.
The counties that sued Tesla, which include Los Angeles and San Francisco, accused the company of dumping improperly labeled materials at transfer centers and landfills that were "not permitted to accept hazardous waste." Based on the complaint filed in San Joaquin County, Tesla was illegally disposing the waste it generated manufacturing and servicing its vehicles.
Undercover investigators from the environmental division at the San Francisco District Attorney's Office were the first to find evidence of Tesla's illegal activities back in 2018. They found trash containers at the company's service centers containing materials, such as aerosols, antifreeze, lubricating oils, brake cleaners, lead acid batteries, aerosols, antifreeze, waste solvents, electronic waste and waste paint when they weren't supposed to. Investigators from other California counties' District Attorney's offices conducted their own investigations and found similar unlawful disposals. The Alameda country authorities who looked into its Fremont factory activities, for instance, discovered illegal disposal of waste containing copper and primer-contaminated debris.
Tesla reached a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency over its handling of hazardous materials back in 2019 and had to agree to properly manage waste at its Fremont plant in addition to paying a $31,000 fine. The automaker had also taken steps to screen its trash containers for hazardous waste before taking them to the landfill after being notified of the issue. But as District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said, "today's settlement against [the company] serves to provide a cleaner environment for citizens throughout the state by preventing the contamination of [their] precious natural resources when hazardous waste is mismanaged and unlawfully disposed." By having a third party regularly check whether Tesla continues to comply with the agreement, authorities can ensure that the company isn't illegally dumping harmful materials across the state over the next few years.