© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Tesla supercharging station is seen in the early morning sun, in Kettleman City, California, U.S., January 25, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
By Clark Mindock
(Reuters) – Tesla (NASDAQ:) has agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by 25 California counties earlier this week accusing the electric vehicle maker of mishandling hazardous waste at its facilities across the state.
The settlement was approved by Judge Jayne Lee on Thursday in San Joaquin County state court, just two days after the counties sued claiming Tesla improperly labeled waste, like paint materials, used batteries and diesel fuel, at its facilities across the state, and sent hazardous materials to landfills that cannot accept such materials.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The company, which did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement, agreed to pay a $1.3 million civil penalty and $200,000 to reimburse the counties for the costs of the investigation. It also agreed to take steps to properly handle waste and hire a third-party auditor to examine its waste practices over five years.
“While electric vehicles may benefit the environment, the manufacturing and servicing of these vehicles still generates many harmful waste streams,” San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said in a statement.
The counties said the company had cooperated with the investigation and has already begun quarantining and screening its waste.
The lawsuit alleged the company violated state unfair business and hazardous waste management laws at as many as 101 facilities, including at Tesla’s manufacturing plant in Fremont.
The company had reached a settlement in 2019 with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over alleged federal hazardous waste violations at its Fremont plant. In that deal, Tesla agreed to take steps to properly manage waste at the facility and pay a $31,000 fine.
Tesla later reached a deal with the EPA in 2022 in which it agreed to pay a $275,000 penalty after the agency said the company was failing to keep records and implement plans to minimize air pollutants from painting operations at the Fremont plant.