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Tesla Sued for Air Pollution in Fremont

Tesla, the electric vehicle pioneer, is facing a lawsuit over air pollution from its factory in Fremont, California
May 15, 2024

Tesla, the electric vehicle pioneer, is facing legal action from the nonprofit Environmental Democracy Project. The lawsuit alleges ongoing violations of the Clean Air Act at Tesla's assembly plant in Fremont, California.  

The Environmental Democracy Project filed the suit in federal court in San Francisco, accusing Tesla of breaching the Clean Air Act "hundreds of times since January 2021." The complaint highlights the emission of harmful pollutants into the surrounding neighborhoods.

Despite Tesla's emphasis on the environmental benefits of electric vehicles, its manufacturing practices have drawn criticism from environmentalists for years. The company ranked 89th on the 2023 Toxic 100 Air Polluters list, a study conducted by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency fined Tesla $275,000 in 2022 for failing to measure, track, and maintain emission records and for inadequate pollution control during painting operations at the facility.

Earlier this year, Tesla settled a lawsuit with 25 California counties over its handling of hazardous waste materials at various facilities across the state. In Germany, environmentalists protested against Tesla's forest clearing for a factory outside Berlin and the company's water consumption.

The latest lawsuit in California alleges ongoing environmental violations by Tesla, exposing residents and employees to excessive air pollution, including nitrogen oxides, arsenic, cadmium, and other harmful chemicals.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, an environmental regulator, accused Tesla of allowing "unabated emissions" in Fremont that should have been prevented. The agency stated that Tesla has received 112 violation notices since 2019 and is now seeking an abatement order to compel changes in factory operations.

Regulators claim that air pollution from the assembly plant is the result of equipment breakdowns, allowing emissions to vent directly into the air without proper filtration. Additionally, Tesla employees or contractors allegedly shut off air pollution controls, particularly when facing difficulties with other paint shop equipment. The paint shop, where vehicle bodies are primed, painted, and coated before final assembly, has a history of repeated fires.

Tesla has not responded to requests for comment.

Despite Tesla's commitment to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy, its practices at the Fremont plant have raised significant environmental concerns. The ongoing lawsuit and regulatory scrutiny underscore the challenges the company faces in aligning its manufacturing operations with its environmental mission.

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