News and Commentary

Elon Wins: California Will Allow Tesla Plant To Reopen With ‘Safety Precautions’
esla CEO Elon Musk speaks during the unveiling of the new Tesla Model Y in Hawthorne, California on March 14, 2019. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
Photo credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Elon Musk and Tesla scored a win late Tuesday when Alameda County officials finally, begrudgingly, allowed the company to reopen its California assembly plant as long as it ascribes to certain specific safety standards.

The decision, of course, comes a bit too late for Alameda County officials; Tesla opened its Fremont, California, plant on Tuesday and is looking to ramp up production of both its electric vehicles and electric batteries despite state-level coronavirus lockdowns.

California is allowing some industrial activities to resume, but counties, like Alameda, are given leeway in restricting local businesses further if they feel it would prevent or slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Alameda, of course, took advantage of that power, shutting down the county and sidelining Musk’s Fremont assembly plant.

This week, Musk announced he would reopen regardless of Alameda County restrictions and challenged county officials to shut down his operation, noting that he would be on the line with Tesla workers when the plant reopened and was willing to be arrested for putting his employees back to work.

Musk also threatened to relocate his entire operation from California to either Nevada or Texas — a threat that caught the attention of no less than California governor Gavin Newsom (and of a handful of Texas and Nevada officials who announced that they’d welcome Musk to their states with open arms).

CNN reports that Alameda County not only did not arrest Musk, they gave in to his demands.

“Tesla’s standoff with California’s Alameda County officials has come to an end after the county agreed to let Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, reopen,” the outlet said Wednesday. “Alameda County gave Tesla its blessing on the condition that it maintain ‘minimum business operations’ and implement additional safety recommendations, according to a company statement that was released on Tuesday.”

They also set a timeline for Tesla to begin ramping up operations starting next week. The county’s restrictions, of course, are meaningless: the Tesla plant has already reopened, and is operating at more than “minimum business.”

“We will be working with the Fremont Police Department to verify Tesla is adhering to physical distancing and that agreed upon health and safety measures are in place for the safety of their workers as they prepare for full production,” the county said in a statement.

Alameda County did not say whether Musk would face repercussions for opening the plant early.

Fox Business reports that the victory has only empowered Musk to begin ramping up operations in other states, including Nevada, where Tesla batteries are manufactured.

“Tesla North American HR boss Valerie Workman shared plans for employees to return to work in Nevada in a Monday email,” according to Fox. “Those employees would be contacted within 24 hours and given a return-to-work date, Workman said.”

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