Tesla In Settlement Proceedings Over 19 Air Quality Violations As Investigation Continues

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District confirms The Drive's reporting on the unfolding air pollution scandal at Tesla's Fremont factory.

Tesla Motors Opens Electric Car Factory In Northern California
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tesla has received 19 notices of violation (NOV) from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and "legal settlement proceedings" are underway, the regulator told The Drive today. This confirms The Drive's exclusive reporting on BAAQMD documents that revealed 18 of these notices, most of which center on the plant's troubled paint shop

The violations stem from some 21 so-called "deviations from permit conditions" reported in Tesla's two semi-annual compliance reports for 2018. "We investigate all the deviations facilities report," BAAQMD Communications Officer Lisa Fasano tells The Drive. "Our inspectors would investigate these deviations to determine whether an air pollution regulation has been violated.  These ultimately are either resolved or result in NOV’s, and that is captured in the total number of 19 NOV’s thus far."  

That might not be the end of this run of violations for Tesla, as Fasano confirms that "pending deviations are still currently under investigation." Eleven of the 21 deviations in Tesla's 2018 reports were listed as pending at the time those reports were submitted, including those covering Tesla's failure to secure permits for its North Paint Shop and GA3 and GA4 general assembly operations as well as the de-activation of an E-Scrub overspray abatement device due to fire risk. Fasano declined to specify which deviations could still result in further notices of violation, citing BAAQMD's policy of not commenting on active investigations.

Tesla's first option for settling its 19 violations is BAAQMD's Mutual Settlement Program, which "gives violators a way to settle their case out of court, by correcting their violation and agreeing to pay a certain penalty. If the case is not resolved mutually, it would then be referred to the District Counsel's Office for legal action. This ongoing negotiation process, along with the "extensive documentation by our inspectors" and the "complicated investigations" required before issuing notices of violation explain the lengthy interval between the first reports of deviations and the ultimate imposition of penalties, Fasano said.

Meanwhile, BAAQMD remains engaged with the situation at Tesla's Fremont factory. "The Air District is working to ensure Tesla’s permit accurately reflects their operations and complies with all air quality regulations," Fasano said. "The Air District continues to inspect, monitor and review all operations at the Fremont facility to ensure compliance with all regulations."