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DA’s Office announces settlement with Tesla for improper disposal of hazardous waste


February 1, 2024

RIVERSIDE – District Attorney Mike Hestrin, along with 24 other District Attorneys throughout California, announced that today a judge in San Joaquin County ordered Tesla, Inc. to pay $1.5 million as part of a settlement of a civil environmental prosecution alleging the electric car company mishandled hazardous waste at its car service centers, energy center, and its factory in Fremont.

Tesla, Inc., a Delaware Corporation, currently owns and operates approximately 57 car service centers and 18 solar energy facilities throughout California, including five sites in Riverside County. It also manufactures electric vehicles at its Fremont Factory. In the complaint filed in San Joaquin County, prosecutors accused Tesla, Inc. of illegally disposing of hazardous waste generated during its servicing and manufacturing of its electric vehicles, and of violating laws related to the storage and management of this hazardous waste.

The investigation, initiated by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Environmental Division began in 2018 when San Francisco District Attorney investigators conducted undercover inspections of Tesla, Inc.’s trash containers at its car service centers, which revealed the illegal disposal of hazardous used 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. District Attorney investigators from Alameda, Monterey, Orange, Placer, Riverside, San Diego, and San Joaquin counties then conducted additional inspections at Tesla, Inc.’s car service centers throughout California, and found similar unlawful disposals. Alameda County District Attorney investigators also conducted waste inspections of trash containers at the Fremont Factory and found the unlawful disposal of additional hazardous waste, including weld spatter waste (which at times contains copper) produced while welding metal car panels, waste paint mix cups produced during paint repair operations, and used wipes contaminated with primer coat generated by wiping the surfaces of coated vehicles.

As part of the settlement, Tesla, Inc. is ordered to pay $1.3 million in civil penalties, and $200,000 in costs of investigation, with a total of $100,000 going directly to Riverside County’s General Protection Fund. Among compliance measures such as training of employees, the settlement also requires Tesla, Inc. to hire a third-party to conduct annual waste audits of its trash containers at ten percent of its facilities. These audits will occur each year for five years and auditors will examine trash containers for hazardous waste.

The case was brought by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office and 24 other California District Attorneys’ Offices where Tesla, Inc.’s factory, car service centers, and energy locations are located. Tesla, Inc. cooperated with the District Attorneys’ investigation and took steps to improve its compliance with the environmental protection laws brought to its attention by the prosecutors. One of the compliance steps taken by Tesla, Inc. after it was contacted by the District Attorneys was the quarantining and screening of trash containers for hazardous waste at all of its service centers before trash was brought to the landfill.

The final judgement in this case was signed by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jayne C. Lee. The case, STKCV-UBT-2024-1154, was handled in Riverside County by Deputy District Attorney Lauren R. Martineau of the DA’s Environmental Protection Team.