Tesla is sued over emissions from California plant

By Thomson Reuters May 14, 2024 | 8:48 AM

By Jonathan Stempel and Clark Mindock

(Reuters) – Tesla has been sued by an environmental nonprofit that accused Elon Musk’s electric car company of violating the federal Clean Air Act hundreds of times by letting its Fremont, California, plant emit harmful pollutants.

In a complaint filed on Monday, the Environmental Democracy Project said Tesla has since January 2021 exposed nearby residents and workers to excessive nitrogen oxides, arsenic, cadmium and other harmful chemicals, mainly through its paint shop operations.

The nonprofit wants an injunction to halt excess pollution, plus civil fines of up to $121,275 per day per violation of the Clean Air Act.

Tesla did not immediately respond on Tuesday to requests for comment.

The lawsuit filed federal court in San Francisco adds to pressure on Tesla to improve air quality surrounding the Fremont plant, its main U.S. factory.

On May 2, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said it wanted an independent hearing board to order Tesla to reduce harmful emissions from its paint shop operations.

It said that Tesla’s emissions abatement system breaks down “repeatedly,” and the automaker has since 2019 racked up 112 notices of violation, each accounting for as much as 750 pounds of illegal air pollution.

In February, Tesla agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit by 25 California counties that claimed it mishandled hazardous waste at locations across the state.

The Environmental Democracy Project said it has authority to file a “citizen” lawsuit under the Clean Air Act because Tesla “has violated or in violation of conditions imposed by an operating permit for major sources of pollution.”

Lawyers for the nonprofit did not immediately respond to requests for additional comment.

The case is Environmental Democracy Project v Tesla Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 24-02888.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski)