Tesla Accused of Environmental Violations in U.S. and Europe

German authorities have fined Tesla more than $14 million for a failure to properly handle used batteries

At home and abroad, authorities are accusing electric vehicle giant Tesla of failing to meet certain environmental regulations. Tesla is reportedly being investigated by the EPA over allegations that the company violated federal emissions standards as well as concerns about potentially hazardous surface coating procedures. In Germany, regulators have already issued a fine of €12 million (approximately $14.5 million) for failing to properly take back used batteries from its customers.

CNBC reports the EPA is seeking more information about Tesla’s surface coating procedures for its vehicles, alleging that they don’t meet standards limiting hazardous air pollutants. Tesla’s main car plant in Fremont, California, has raised concerns among regulators before, specifically the troubled “paint plant,” which has a history of fires as well as improper cleaning and maintenance.

In 2019, workers at the paint plant revealed that they were compelled to work under grueling conditions to meet Model 3 production goals at the factory’s open-air “paint hospital”—a tent where they say there were pressured to cut corners during touch-up and detailing work and to skip previously required vehicle safety tests. Four assembly line workers said supervisors had ordered them to patch cracks in plastic brackets and housings using electrical tape, while others claimed they had endured extremes of heat and cold in the tent, and had breathed polluted air during Northern California wildfires, which Tesla denied.

Building permits indicate that Tesla made improvements at its paint facilities in 2020, and the company claimed in Wednesday’s quarterly financial report to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it “has responded to all information requests from the EPA and refutes the allegations.” Additionally, the manufacture says its troubles with the agency will not present a “material adverse impact” on business.

Tesla is also at odds with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which has previously hit it with violation notices over issues of “air permitting and related compliance for the Fremont Factory.”

The German national environmental agency has issued a Tesla subsidiary a notice and fine “alleging its non-compliance under applicable laws relating to market participation notifications and take-back obligations with respect to end-of-life battery products required thereunder.”

The company states that it “has continued to take back battery packs, and although we cannot predict the outcome of this matter, including the final amount of any penalties, we have filed our objection and it is not expected to have a material adverse impact on our business.”

Tesla already has a permit to build an assembly plant in Brandenburg outside of Berlin, and notified officials on Tuesday that it will also seek a permit to construct a battery cell production facility there. While the plant remains under construction, executives said in a Monday earnings call that they expect limited production to begin there this year, with volume production to commence in 2022. Execs did not address how the new permit application might affect that timetable.

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