Tesla has been sued by 25 California counties alleging the automaker repeatedly mishandled hazardous waste at facilities across the state. The lawsuit was filed after months of failed settlement talks.
According to the complaint filed in San Joaquin County Superior Court, Tesla improperly labeled and disposed of “lead acid batteries and other batteries,” paints, brake fluid, aerosols, antifreeze, acetone, diesel fuel and more in its production and service. Facilities across the state. Tesla is also accused of improperly disposing of waste at on-site and landfills that do not accept hazardous waste.
District attorneys in each county are seeking an injunction as well as civil penalties to force Tesla to properly manage waste at facilities going forward. Tesla could pay up to $70,000 per day per breach, according to Reuters, which first reported the suit.
Tesla first disclosed in a 2022 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that its waste management practices are being investigated by the district attorney's office in the state of California. The company said it had “implemented various remedial measures, including conducting training and audits and making improvements to its site waste management programs.”
In October 2023, the company said it was in settlement negotiations with those district attorneys' offices. The suit indicates that those negotiations ended without a resolution. Representatives from the San Francisco and San Joaquin district attorney's offices, which led the investigation, did not immediately respond to a question about what happened to the settlement talks.
Tesla's previous work in California has been scrutinized for environmental impact. The company settled with the Environmental Protection Agency in 2019 over several violations at its Fremont, California factory, including labeling hazardous waste. That resulted in a $31,000 fine and a $55,000 settlement 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.