Tesla will pay a $750,000 fine and install a community solar microgrid that includes one of its solar rooftops as part of a settlement with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in California. This district covers nine counties in the San Francisco Bay area and includes Fremont, which hosts one of Tesla’s vehicle manufacturing facilities.
This is the same factory that was involved in a dispute involving Tesla, Elon Musk, and Californian state and county officials over the state’s response to COVID-19 that led to Elon Musk moving out of the state and selling his California homes, including the sale of three Bel-Air properties to a local developer. California has since ruled that the Fremont factory, which employs more than 10,000 people, is an essential business that can remain open.
Despite Musk’s dispute with the state, Tesla has applied for permits to expand the Fremont factory, indicating that Tesla is going nowhere soon, at least as far as manufacturing electric vehicles is concerned. Musk had previously threatened to move Tesla’s headquarters out of the state and did move his nonprofit foundation to Texas.
He has also previously referred to Austin, Texas, as America’s next boom town and called for more housing in the area. Both Tesla and SpaceX are currently in the process of building new manufacturing facilities in the Austin area, with Tesla alone expected to add at least 10,000 new jobs in the area. If Musk is unwilling to completely abandon California despite his frequent disagreements with government officials and regulators, it may merely be “good business,” since California is friendly enough toward electric vehicles to offer tax credits and occasional rebates for the purchase and registration of new EVs within the state.
This latest settlement with regulators covers 33 environmental violations dating back to 2015 that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District says has now been fixed. Many of these violations appear to involve the paperwork that is so often required by regulators, including “installing or modifying equipment without proper permits, failure to conduct required emissions testing, failure to maintain records and failure to report information to the Air District in a timely manner.”
This seems to amount to employees failing to keep up with bureaucratic hurdles set by regulators and not much to do with Tesla’s ability to keep up with actual emissions standards – something that it does well enough with to sell $1.84 billion in carbon credits in 2020 alone despite its complaint that the suspension of some Obama-era environmental regulations hurt the carbon credit market. Elon Musk had previously said that electric vehicles like those manufactured by Tesla could make gasoline-powered vehicles obsolete.
The $750,000 fine will go directly into the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s general management fund. The community microgrid project will become part of the district’s Community Health Protection Program, which includes the goal of improving air quality and public health in areas that have been heavily impacted by air pollution. The project can also reduce utility bills in the impacted areas. The area where the microgrid will be installed has not yet been determined and neither Tesla nor the district announced a deadline by which the project should be completed.