For all the posturing about how much better Tesla’s vehicles are for the environment compared to just about every other car on the road, the company sure knows how to get on the wrong side the Environmental Protection Agency and its long-standing Clean Air Act. The EPA announced last week it had settled with Tesla regarding Clean Air Act violations at the company’s flagship facility in Freemont, California.
Specifically, Tesla has violated the EPA’s national compliance initiative: Creating Cleaner Air for Communities by Reducing Excess Emissions of Harmful Pollutants (HAPs). HAPs are pollutants that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, in some instances, small amounts of these chemicals inhaled or ingested can cause serious illness. Under the settlement, Tesla agreed to pay a $275,000 penalty.
According to the EPA’s press release, Telsa violated a subsection of Clean Air Act regulations regarding Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Surface Coating of Automobiles and Light-Duty Trucks. The EPA says from October 2016 to September 2019 Tesla failed to implement work practices that minimize hazardous air pollutant emissions from the storage and mixing of materials used in vehicle coating operations.
Tesla also failed to correctly perform the required monthly emissions calculations needed to demonstrate that the California facility’s coating operations complied with the Clean Air Act. This was made worse by the fact that the company failed to collect and keep all required records associated with the calculation of the hazardous air pollutants emission rate for the factory’s coating operations.
Of course, all automakers have committed environmental sins, but instead of playing the what about game, it’s important to realize that violations like this factor into the cradle-to-grave emissions of a vehicle, even if tailpipe emissions have been moved upstream to the power generating source. This also isn’t the first time Tesla has fallen foul of the EPA, back in 2019 the company was charged federal hazardous waste violations relating to equipment leaks, hazardous waste generation, and solid waste calculations.