Environmentally Friendly Tesla Is Trying To Skirt Austin Pollution Laws

Photo: Tesla
Photo: Tesla

Tesla very much wants you to think that it is the cleaner alternative to those dirty, polluting gas cars. When you bought a Model S, you were helping save the planet, they said. However, Tesla hasn’t always done the best job complying with local environmental regulations, and according to the Houston Chronicle, it’s using a new state law to get its Texas factory removed from Austin’s environmental authority.

The factory, which is located outside of Austin, Texas near the city’s airport, was part of the city’s “extraterritorial jurisdiction,” meaning Austin environmental laws still applied. Considering its location on the Colorado River, it makes sense that the city has strong regulations to keep its water clean and prevent flooding. Unlike Austin, Travis County’s environmental regulations are more lax.

The city has since confirmed to the Houston Chronicle that Tesla did request “for land associated with Tesla’s operations” to be removed from Austin’s extraterritorial jurisdiction and that it met the requirements to do so. “Releasing properties from the ETJ does impact the city and future city residents,” the city said in a statement. “The city of Austin’s environmental regulations are more protective of water resources than unincorporated Travis County.”


The decision to leave Austin’s ETJ is ironic considering Musk initially claimed the factory would “basically be an ecological paradise – birds in the trees, butterflies, fish in the stream.” As Alexia Leclercq, policy director for People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources, told the Houston Chronicle, it’s also consistent with Tesla’s approach to protecting the environment since it began construction on the 2,500-acre facility.

“They have this pattern of trying to have as few regulations apply to them as possible,” she said, emphasizing that the ecological paradise Musk initially promised is “nowhere to be found.”

Once removed from Austin’s ETJ, it won’t be a free-for-all for Tesla, though. It will still have to comply with state regulations that limit how much it can pollute the river and the extent to which it can damage nearby wetlands. It is still Texas, though, so good luck with that, Austin.

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