Tesla files lawsuit against California county over plant shutdown

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Tesla remains opposed to Alameda County’s lockdown as it affects its facility

Tesla has filed a federal lawsuit Saturday against Alameda County in California challenging its shutdown of the company’s main factory as a part of lockdown implemented for controlling the spread of the coronavirus.

The lawsuit seeks to overturn the county’s May 4 health orders, which go further than Governor Gavin Newsom’s phased statewide resumption by continuing to keep businesses like Tesla’s plant located in Fremont, California, closed due to social distancing reasons.

Musk tweeted Saturday that the nation’s order was the “final straw” and that he was moving the automaker’s headquarters from California to “Texas/Nevada immediately” and that he might move the Fremont plant as well, depending on how Tesla “is treated in the future.”

Alameda county joined five other Northern California counties and the city of Berkeley in keeping stringent orders than the state directive.

Frankly, this is the final straw. Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependen on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 9, 2020

Alameda County replied to that tweet Saturday with a statement attributed to public information manager Neetu Balram, who stated officials have been negotiating with Tesla.

“This has been a collaborative, good faith effort to develop and implement a safety plan that allows for resumption while protecting the health and well-being of the thousands of workers who travel to and from work at Tesla’s factory,” she stated.

“The team at Tesla has been responsive to our guidance and recommendations, and we look forward to reaching an agreement on an appropriate safety plan very soon,” Balram said.

Alameda County officials are yet to discuss the lawsuit.

Erica Pan, interim health officer for the Alameda County Public Health Department, stated on Friday that it had not “given the green light” to the carmaker to restart operations, despite Musk’s stated plan to reopen anyway after having been shut down since March 23.

She said the county is allowed by law to require stricter precautions than the state’s due to the pandemic.

After Newsom declared the state’s resuming plan on Monday, Musk said he would resume the Fremont operation, and workers who did not feel safe going to work are not required to. He has also argued that Tesla’s plant in China, once the center of the coronavirus outbreak, has informed the company how to keep employees safe.

The lawsuit, submitted in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, argues Alameda County is not permitted to “override an express permission in the Governor’s Order to continue to the operations of federal critical infrastructure businesses”.

It states that the automaker is protected as an electric motor maker and as part of the energy sector but that Alameda County proceeded to direct its shutdown at the automaker.

The filing seeks a permanent injunction against the shutdown.

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