Tesla accused of environmental rule violations in U.S. and Germany


A worker wearing a face covering exits a Tesla Inc. vehicle at the company’s assembly plant in Fremont, California, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesDavid Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tesla is defending itself in the U.S. and Germany against allegations that it has violated environmental rules and regulations, according to a new financial filing.

In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency accused Tesla last week of failing to prove it is in compliance with federal emission standards for hazardous air pollutants. Specifically, the EPA is seeking details about how Tesla handles “surface coating” of its vehicles.

As CNBC has previously reported, the “paint shop” at Tesla’s main U.S. car plant in Fremont, Calif. has a history of problems, including fires, improper cleaning and maintenance. Some vehicle re-touching, to fix flaws in paint on the cars, has been done in a tented “paint hospital” at the Fremont factory, employees previously told CNBC.

In 2020, Tesla embarked on massive improvements to its paint facilities, Fremont building permits revealed.

Tesla said in the filing on Wednesday that the company “has responded to all information requests from the EPA and refutes the allegations.” The company does not expect any “material adverse impact” on its business from its dealings with the EPA in this matter.

Tesla is also still tangling with local air quality authorities in California — the Bay Area Air Quality Management District — over previously disclosed “notices of violation,” relating to “air permitting and related compliance for the Fremont Factory.”

In Germany, Wednesday’s financial filing revealed, authorities have fined Tesla 12 million euros, or about $14.5 million, for allegedly failing to make public notifications about the company’s obligation and programs for taking back old batteries from customers.

Tesla wrote in the filing: “This is primarily relating to administrative requirements, but Tesla has continued to take back battery packs.” Tesla filed an objection in Germany, and said that the matter should not have a material impact on Tesla’s business.

A positive government relationship is crucial to Tesla in Germany, as the company is in the midst of building its first European plant there,