Tesla has agreed to pay a $275,000 fine in a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violating the federal Clean Air Act at its electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Fremont, California.
The penalty is next to nothing for a company that generated a net income of $2.32 billion in the fourth quarter of last year alone.
The EPA found Tesla to be in violation of specific regulations known as National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Surface Coating of Automobiles and Light-Duty Trucks from October 2016 through September 2019, which could put people living in communities nearby at a health and environmental risk. Tesla’s facility applied coating materials containing such hazardous air pollutants as formaldehyde, ethylbenzene, naphthalene and xylene.
Based on several requests for information from Tesla, the EPA determined that Tesla either didn’t develop or implement a work practice plan to minimize hazardous air pollutant emissions from the storage and mixing of materials used to coat Tesla’s vehicles. The EPA also found that Tesla didn’t perform the required monthly emissions calculations to demonstrate compliance with federal standards, and it failed to collect and keep all required records associated with the calculation of pollutant emission rate for coating operations.
This isn’t the first time Tesla or its Fremont facility, also the site of alleged rampant sexual and racial discrimination, has been called out by the EPA. In 2019, Tesla agreed to pay a $31,000 penalty for failing to comply with air emissions standards for equipment leaks, failing to comply with management requirements for generators of hazardous wastes and failing to make an adequate hazardous waste determination for certain solid waste generated at the facility, according to the EPA. At the time, Tesla also had to purchase $55,000 in emergency response equipment for the City of Fremont Fire Department.
Tesla has had multiple fires in the paint shop of its Fremont factory, in large part because filters meant to clean and carry air into and out of the building were visibly coated in paint and clearcoat, Tesla employees told CNBC in 2018.
“Compliance monitoring is one of the key components EPA uses to ensure that the regulated community follows environmental laws and regulations,” wrote the EPA in a statement. “Today’s case is another example of the Agency’s years-long compliance oversight of this facility. Tesla has corrected the violations noted in both settlements and returned to compliance.”