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Tesla to pay $1.5 million in hazardous waste case brought by California prosecutors

Vehicles are seen parked at the Tesla car plant in Fremont, Calif., on Monday. The parking lot was nearly full; Tesla resumed production in defiance of an order from county health authorities.
Ben Margot
Vehicles are seen parked at the Tesla car plant in Fremont in 2020.

Tesla has been ordered to pay $1.5 million as part of a settlement reached with about two dozen California prosecutorial offices, including San Diego's, which accused the electric vehicle giant of mishandling hazardous waste, it was announced Friday.

Following an investigation initiated in 2018 by the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, prosecutors said it was discovered that Tesla illegally disposed of hazardous waste that was generated through its servicing and manufacturing of vehicles.

The disposals occurred at Tesla's car service centers, energy centers and factory in Fremont, prosecutors said.

An ongoing CalMatters investigation has shown how California companies and governments avoid the Golden State’s strict environmental regulations by shipping toxic waste across state borders. New reporting shows how California exports the risk to Mexico.

The hazardous used materials at issue included lubricating oils, brake cleaners, used lead acid batteries and other batteries, used aerosols, used antifreeze, waste solvents and other cleaners, electronic waste, waste paint, and contaminated debris.

After the discovery of the initial improper disposals, D.A.'s investigators in San Diego County and others discovered similar incidents in their jurisdictions, according to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.

"Our Environmental Unit continues to hold companies accountable when they don't follow laws that are in place to keep our environment clean and safe," San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement. "Cooperation and coordination with district attorney offices up and down the state has again resulted in a judgment that will not only stop these illegal practices but also stop it from happening again in the future."

Along with monetary penalties, Tesla will be required to hire an outside party to conduct annual waste audits of its trash containers at 10% of its facilities. The audits will occur annually for five years.

Tesla owns and operates about 57 car service centers throughout the state, including three in San Diego County.

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