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Transportation Earth Politics

California May Waive Environmental Rules For Tesla 327

Posted by Soulskill
from the mother-earth-plays-second-fiddle-to-mother-economy dept.
cartechboy writes: We all know Tesla is working on its Gigafactory, and it has yet to announce officially where it will be. But the automaker did announce a shortlist of possible locations, and California wasn't on it. The state has quickly been trying to lure Tesla to get back into contention. Now the state may waive environmental rules which would normally make construction of such a large manufacturing facility more difficult. Apparently, Governor Jerry Brown's office is currently negotiating an incentive package for Tesla that would waive certain parts of the nearly half-century-old California Environmental Quality Act. Not only that, but state officials are reportedly considering letting Tesla begin construction and perform damage mitigation later, along with limiting lawsuits that could slow down the project. Let's not forget some massive tax breaks, to the tune of $500 million. Is California stepping out of bounds here?
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California May Waive Environmental Rules For Tesla

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:41PM (#47666475)

    Surprise, surprise, surprise!

    • Sure, when you have to race to the bottom.

      • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @06:45PM (#47666993)

        We need to have environmental protections, but many of California's regulations are ridiculous. Every business owner has to post a notice that their customers might get cancer if they eat the toner in the fax machine, or drink the toilet cleaner. The requirements for contaminants in waste water from semiconductor plants is more stringent than for tap water. So the semiconductor plants have mostly left the state, and taken the jobs with them. For at least the last ten years, California has had an unemployment rate about two points above the national average.

        • by spasm (79260) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @08:01PM (#47667475) Homepage

          That particular regulation (prop 65) was voter initiated, not legislature initiated. All it requires is: the state must publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm (defined as having a 1 in 100,000 chance of causing cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm); businesses must label products and areas, like workplaces or apartments, that contain or release *significant amounts* of those poisons; and businesses are prohibited from knowingly releasing listed chemicals into drinking water sources. Many businesses have taken the position that they're better off posting warnings when any amount of a carcinogenic substance is present.

          Given that semiconductor manufacturing is one of the more hazardous and polluting industries out there, I'm not surprised fab plants have a difficult time meeting environmental regulations in CA and have been willing to deal with the costs associated with moving to states or coutries who don't care as much about the health of workers or the cost of environmental cleanup. The solution to lost jobs isn't to drop regulation so employers can go back to putting employee health at risk, it's to improve the standards of the rest of the world so there isn't an unregulated bolt-hole for fab plant owners to run off to.

          • by Rockoon (1252108)

            All it requires is: the state must publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm

            oh, thats all?

            Complete list of things that give you cancer (according to epidemiologists) [numberwatch.co.uk]

            Acetaldehyde, acrylamide, acrylonitril, abortion, agent orange, alar, alcohol, air pollution, aldrin, alfatoxin, arsenic, arsine, asbestos, asphalt fumes, atrazine, AZT, baby food, barbequed meat, benzene, benzidine, benzopyrene, beryllium, beta-carotene, betel nuts, birth control pills, bottled water, bracken, bread, breasts, brooms, bus stations, calcium channel blockers, cadmium, candles, captan, carbon black,

    • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @09:13PM (#47667805) Journal
      It's more that just jobs though. If this factory reduces the cost of the batteries to the point where lots more people can afford to purchase Teslas this could significantly impact air pollution in cities. While you'd need data to really know the answer this might actually be a case where the laws to protect the environment are not actually doing so.
  • Screwed... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Type44Q (1233630) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:42PM (#47666487)

    Californians are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to this shit: they've got state regulations that do a better job (at least better than anywhere else in the US, with the possible exception of Hawaii) of limiting their exposure to nasty, carcinogenic shit, environmentally-devastating corporate irresponsibility, etc etc... but as long as there are cheaper places with less regulations to run a business (Texas, Mexico, China...), that's where industry's going to go. And California will continue it's steady slide down the economic toilet.

    • by Type44Q (1233630)

      it's

      Apostrophe not intended... :p

    • Re:Screwed... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['ish' in gap]> on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:49PM (#47666553)

      Somewhat true, but the regulations really could use an overhaul in the efficiency department. I'm fine with high standards, but if the standard is met, it should be possible to get approval in a reasonable amount of time without spending an inordinate amount of money on the process, and with a reasonable degree of finality (rather than having a million different ways to reopen a court challenge). California's patchwork of regulations is kind of a mess in that department, which is even causing problems for the state itself; the high-speed rail plan has been mired in the process and lawsuits over the process that state law permits a very wide range of people to file. (Granted, it's not all CA law that's the problem in that case; there are also people trying to slow down the process using federal agencies and lawsuits.)

      • Re:Screwed... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Archangel Michael (180766) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @07:09PM (#47667151) Journal

        The HSR system is already 1) More expensive than they promised, 2) Already behind schedule, 3) Not really feasible, 4) will cost more than a half a dozen round trip plane tickets for every man, woman, child in the state (legal and illegal) BEFORE the first passenger buys a $120 one way ticket (and the huge state subsidy).

        I hope it dies a horrible death. There is no possible way to justify the expense.

      • by maz2331 (1104901)

        Regulations that actually accomplish something other than employing compliance officers who file reams of paperwork are necessary and a good thing. The problem comes when they morph into Byzantine rules that are self-contradictory and only serve as a jobs program for bureaucrats (both public and private) and lawyers.

    • Doesn't California have both silicon valley and hollywood? How is it sliding into the "economic toilet"?

    • Sounds like the article's discussing the way in which it's not screwed.

      There are circumstances under which such rules can be waived.

      I especially hope they wave them, because Tesla's almost certainly a net-benefit to California's environment anyway (by making the industry wake up to electric vehicles when traditional automakers seemed like they were intentionally failing).

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        Sounds like the article's discussing the way in which it's not screwed.

        There are circumstances under which such rules can be waived.

        I especially hope they wave them, because Tesla's almost certainly a net-benefit to California's environment anyway (by making the industry wake up to electric vehicles when traditional automakers seemed like they were intentionally failing).

        Driving electric vehicles may be good for the environment, but producing them is not necessarily so. At least not locally.

    • Re:Screwed... (Score:5, Informative)

      by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @06:06PM (#47666737)

      but as long as there are cheaper places with less regulations to run a business (Texas, Mexico, China...), that's where industry's going to go. And California will continue it's steady slide down the economic toilet.

      You think so? From here [ca.gov]:

      California added almost 320,000 new jobs in 2013 and over 1.17 million new jobs since the end of the recession.

      California's GDP growth rate was 3.5 percent in 2012 – fifth best in the nation.

      Where other states have one or two main economic sectors, California has several -- all of which lead the nation. California is first in high tech, biotech, agriculture, entertainment, manufacturing, tourism and more.

      California is by far the number one state for manufacturing jobs, firms and output – accounting for 11.7 percent of the total output, and employing 9 percent of the workforce. CA manufacturing generates $229.9 billion, more than any other state.

      Information technology jobs have rebounded and exceeded pre-recession levels. California remains the top state for information technology jobs which drives venture capital investment, patents, innovation and ultimately the strength of our workforce.

      California’s 2,324 biomedical companies employ 269,976 people. This industry accounts for $115 billion in annual revenues – which is more than the annual Gross State Product of 18 U.S. states.

      Where's that "economic toilet" you're talking about?

      • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @07:56PM (#47667453) Journal

        California is by far the number one state for manufacturing jobs, firms and output â" accounting for 11.7 percent of the total output, and employing 9 percent of the workforce.

        I'd love to see that in per-capita or per-acre terms.

        It's also the largest state in population, with 11.91% as of the 2010 census. That's half again as many as Texas, a pinch under twice as many as New York or Florida, almost three times that of Illinois or Pennsylvania, and by then you've used up more than a third of them.

        11.7% of the output jobs vs. 11.91% of the population says the AVERAGE of the rest of the states has it beat. Some of the others are REALLY depressed, so the best of them beat it into the ground.

        Similarly, it's the third largest state in area - with the largest amount of COMFY area.

        It has resources, the best ports for trade with Asia, decent roads and railroads to the rest of the continent, etc. And it's got some capital-intensive industries and lots of access TO capital. It SHOULD be a nova to the rest of the country's furnaces. So why isn't it?

      • by Type44Q (1233630)
        Perhaps there's no "economic toilet" on paper... but those figures hardly tell the whole story: the profits from all that "growth" are hardly reaching the average citizen, all those IT jobs don't look quite so lucrative when you factor in California's cost of living, there's been a steady outpouring to other states of the [virtually-nonexistent] middle class and people on fixed incomes... Hell, it's gotten to the point in Oklahoma and other [Southern shitholes with low cost of living] where the number of Ca
    • by exabrial (818005)
      I love in California how there are warning labels on everything. And no one cares.
      • by c6gunner (950153)

        I love in California how there are warning labels on everything. And no one cares.

        That's the inevitable result of constant FUD; people just ignore everything. That's why I'm ok with the idea of labelling "GMO", as long as we go ahead and label everything else.

        "May contain trace amounts of Dihydrogen Monoxide".
        "Possibly manufactured near tumour-inducing cell towers".
        "Likely produced adjacent to a haunted graveyard".

        Label everything so people will stop worrying about stupid labels.

    • by mirix (1649853)

      CA still out-manufactures every other state. second place is texas, Though CA has a bigger population.

      It's had some decline in manufacturing, sure, but it's never going to be like detroit. Hell, even if they quit making things entirely - CA will never be detroit, between IT, hollywood, tourism, service BS, etc.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Hell, even if they quit making things entirely - CA will never be detroit, between IT, hollywood, tourism, service BS, etc.

        Unless it drives those industries out as well. Current diversity of their economy doesn't matter, if no one stays. I think California is well on its way to be yet another history lesson on the parable of killing the golden goose.

    • Re:Screwed... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by spasm (79260) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @08:07PM (#47667511) Homepage

      You forget that allowing companies to expose workers to toxic crap and to dump waste everywhere comes with economic costs to the state as well as economic benefits. Sure, you get a handful more jobs and the tax revenue which comes with that, but usually it's the state who ends up paying for the cleanup afterwards, and it's everyone in the state who pays for the downstream healthcare costs for workers and others affected by it, both through higher insurance premiums and through taxes to pay for medi-cal and medicare. Sometimes the economic benefits to the state of allowing a semiconductor fab plant to skip environmental regulations so they don't leave to Texas or Mexico don't actually add up. Unless the *only* thing you care about is being able to boast about how you 'created more jobs' between now and the next election.

    • by PPH (736903)

      limiting their exposure to nasty, carcinogenic shit, environmentally-devastating corporate irresponsibility, etc etc...

      Nope. The stuff still gets built. And sold in California. They just have to kill a few more trees to print forms that explain how this product is known to cause cancer in California rats.

  • Yes (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:42PM (#47666497)
    "Is California stepping out of bounds here?"
    California is like breakfast cereal - what isn't fruits, or nuts, are flakes...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:44PM (#47666513)
    It's kind of funny ... these big money, massive development sorts of projects are probably the ones that most need to have the environmental review that the law was put in place for.

    So Joe Blow with his small business needs to go through all the red tape, but big ol' money making Elon Musk can avoid them. I can understand the impetus behind it ... lets get that money and those jobs into our state. But isn't it selling out a little, as well unfairly burdening the little guy?
  • by mlts (1038732) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:44PM (#47666517)

    Yes, the rules are waived... for now.

    However, how easily can that waiver be pulled? Is Tesla standing with a just flick of a governor's pen between them and having to shutter the entire factory, or is there some due process in place so they can't be shut down if they don't toe the politicians' line exactly?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      CEQU, the item being waved, is a requirement for a building permit. Once the permitted work is complete you may continue to operate the building as constructed. But you make a good point: need to redesign an interior office space to accommodate more workers, here comes CEQU again.

  • by d34thm0nk3y (653414) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:49PM (#47666559)
    I was curious about what rules would be waived so actually read the article. This article says almost nothing. And the supposedly supporting link on 'waive the rules' doesn't go anywhere. About all I can tell is that they will let them do their Impact Assessment as they begin construction instead of ahead of time.

    Seems like much ado about nothing unless anyone has some real info.
    • Impact assesment (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Two things ... 1) Doing the impact assessment means that the impact assessment is irrelevant. 2) The impact assessment takes 2 years + court battles for a project of that magnitude. By not completing the assessment, they skip the arbitrarily long court battles.

      • by rahvin112 (446269) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @08:41PM (#47667683)

        It doesn't mean it's irrelevant, it means impacts won't be prevented (which isn't the purpose of an impact study anyway) but they can still be mitigated later. You might not understand this difference but it's significant. We have a serious problem with environmental groups abusing the process not to prevent environmental damage, but to prevent development at all. Even when developers or state agencies go out of their way to protect sensitive sites/species groups like Greenpeace will still sue, not to get additional protections or to protect anything but simply to raise the costs in the hope the agency/company will abandon the project because in Greenpeace's view all new development is bad. They aren't alone, there are dozens of groups who are abusing the courts and our environmental laws as some campaign to end all new development.

        This is not the purpose these environmental rules were created to satisfy. The laws are being heavily abused and if it's not reigned in it's going to get so bad people will support abolishing the protections all together, which is a far worse outcome.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:51PM (#47666569) Homepage

    It's just a battery factory. It's unlikely it will employ that many people. Tesla says 6500, but that's probably exaggerated, including the construction phase. The battery factory for the Chevy Volt has only 100 people. It's a big, highly automated plant.

  • by taustin (171655) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:52PM (#47666581) Homepage Journal

    is that they're talking about exceptions, and not simply getting rid of the massive regulations that have killed businesses for years.

    We now have state inspectors go through out trash cans looking for light bulbs. We will not, ever, be in a position to negotiate an exemption.

    It would be amusing to see someone file a lawsuit - at the federal level - for equal protection violations. A class action lawsuit, with the class being everyone who is not eligible for the exemption. Or maybe a RICO lawsuit, since this is certainly affecting interstate commerce.

    It wouldn't be the first time a government agency in California [go.com] has been sued for RICO violations. And certainly won't be the last.

  • This isn't 'nam! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:56PM (#47666619)

    There are rules. Either you have environmental protection laws or you don't. If you have them, don't start making exceptions to them because anyone who didn't get an exception and lost money as a result can (and should!) sue the everlasting shit out of you. If there's a problem with your laws, repeal them and replace them with more sensible ones.

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      On the other hand, an exception could be made on the grounds that it would make electric cars more common, which would be a net gain for the environment even with a polluting factory. This really doesn't sound like they're using this justification, but it's a possible one.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)

        On the other hand, an exception could be made on the grounds that it would make electric cars more common, which would be a net gain for the environment even with a polluting factory.

        Then why not force TESLA to build its factory someplace with the most poverty?

        Globally poverty kills 18 million per year, which is 32% of an deaths. Its the #1 killer, way ahead of even the most dire global warming scenarios.

        So if you are going to make exceptions based on "net [environmental] gain" then the argument is immediately undermined by its own logic. The impacts you have decided are important (environmental) are extremely insignificant in comparison to both the effects and the scale of other (

        • by gman003 (1693318)

          Irrelevant. By your logic, the only thing worth doing is whatever magically solves the problem on the planet, and anything else is useless. If I could snap my fingers and suddenly homophobia no longer exists (a limit case of zero penalty, large gain), you would be arguing against doing so because it doesn't create any jobs.

          My argument is sound. The laws being waived are environmental laws - their goal is to help the environment. In unusual cases, it may be in the interests of the environment to waive those

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @06:01PM (#47666681)

    Is California stepping out of bounds here?

    Maybe, maybe not ... the devil is in the details.

    California does go overboard on regulations. I'm saying this based on conversations with a friend who has an environmental remediation business cleaning up other people's industrial messes or preventing the messes in the first place. He's quite the environmentalist, an environmentalist of the scientific school of thought not the political school of thought. The State Legislature is more of the later. If it "sounds" pro-environment "pass it" is their approach. If its useless or counterproductive it doesn't matter, it just has to sound like a good thing.

    If Tesla is only getting breaks on the sillier stuff it may be a good idea.

    Now on the legal side, California is a nightmare. The State Legislature is bought and paid for by the trial lawyers.

  • by timeOday (582209)
    Waivers for individual companies (or tailored so that they only apply to one company in practice) really suck. How is this the rule of law? It's a popularity contest. Worse, it favors only big companies with enough sway to browbeat the government. If anything, we should be working towards better global standards to clamp down on regulation-shopping. At least, goods should be produced under similar regulations to those where they will be consumed, otherwise local industry is unfairly undermined and exte
  • If Musk is as smart as I think he is, he's not gonna touch California with a ten foot pole no matter what they dangle in front of his nose. Don't feed the parasites! Just let the bloodsuckers collapse under the weight of their own stupidity. He'd be doing the rest of the country one huge favor.

    • by mspohr (589790)

      I hate to break it to you but Tesla has its head office, design center and factory in California.
      SpaceX (another Musk venture) is also in California... not to mention that little company he sold a few years ago, PayPal.
      It seems that Musk is already heavily committed to California even if the battery factory goes elsewhere (Reno, Nevada is looking like a good option since they have already done site prep work there).

      • Apparently he's learned his lesson, given that Spacex is building it's new spaceport in Texas. [gizmag.com]

        You tell me - which do think is going to employ more people and contribute more to an economy? Corporate offices, or factories and space ports?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @08:42PM (#47667685)

          Apparently he's learned his lesson, given that Spacex is building it's new spaceport in Texas. [gizmag.com]

          SpaceX is mostly sending satellites to geosynchronous orbits. That means launching due east. East of Brownsville, TX, is the Gulf of Mexico. In California, anywhere east is land, much of it populated. In addition, the closer to the equator you launch the rocket from, the more of a boost you get from earth's rotation. This lets you put more payload into space or use a smaller rocket.

          I don't think that Elon is abandoning California. I think the lesson Elon has learned is some basic rocket science.

    • It's not that bad. Even worst case, it can be like a major organization making motions to move away from Windows towards Linux. The moment they do so, Microsoft, California and such start offering massive deals.

      IE if Musk spends $1M surveying sites outside of the state of California and gets $300M in concessions from California to build the factory there? That's a rather crazy return on investment...

  • Sometime in the late 70's, government's started bribing large companies using huge tax breaks, relaxation of regulations, land grants, etc. using taxpayer money. This has led to very little except badness and a culture of auctioning business locations to the highest (or lowest?) bidder. Nothing good has come of that atmosphere and it's continuing to get worse. How to stop it though?
    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      We can continue to blame the corporations for this. Clearly its the fault of evil corporations. Government isnt the one creating the problem.
  • Damn talk about picking winners and losers. Our laws suck so we'll wave them just for you. California the state of kings and proud of it.

  • waive certain parts of the nearly half-century-old California Environmental Quality Act

    This seems to affirm the giant elephant in the "save the Earth" room: Tesla (as well as other products relying on highly-capable batteries) aren't all that "green" [fool.com]. It may be a great car to drive, but if one needs violates environmental regulations — and not the recent ones — to make it, then green it is not.

    Oh, and then comes the problem of disposing of those wonderful batteries — or recycling them [fool.com]...

    • This seems to affirm the giant elephant in the "save the Earth" room

      The article is devoid of details and the links it provides are even worse. Musk has quite a few heavy weight corporations who are unhappy about his plans and his popularity. The whole thing smells of propaganda to me, why would california offer concessions when the plans for the factory are already well developed in a different state, if they wanted to "bribe" Musk the time to do it is before Musk spent serious money planing to build elsewhere. It's clear Musk had no intention to build in california, it's c

  • If rumors are to be believed, the plant is already under construction.

    I find it hard to believe that California state officials are not aware of this. Therefore, they must have some other agenda beyond Tesla. Tesla is a red herring.

  • by istartedi (132515) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @07:12PM (#47667173) Journal

    We need to do something to prohibit governments from bargaining away the laws. We've devolved into a system where the law is for sale to the highest bidder. The USA's reputation for being less corrupt than other nations is becoming more and more of a joke every day because of stuff like this. Either justice is blind, or it's lame. No "different rules for different folks". Either your state has a code applied equally to all comers, or it's arguable that it has no code at all.

    California isn't OOB. It's just cheating because all the other kids in class are cheating. Johnny looked at Joe's paper. Didn't get caught. What am I knocking myself out for? Jane knows math. I'll look at here paper. It works great until nobody in class knows math any more.

  • by romanval (556418) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @07:15PM (#47667189)

    It's strange how California's environmental protection law was put in place by the beloved icon of Republican party... the same party who now say it's the reason for companies to stay away from California.

    "California's landmark environmental statute, widely known by its acronym CEQA, was signed into law by former Gov. Ronald Reagan. It requires state and local government agencies to review development projects to identify potential threats to the environment and recommend ways to reduce or eliminate any potential damage."
    http://www.latimes.com/busines... [latimes.com]

    • Good point, in addition, the question can be asked that if Tesla builds the factory (which they will in one state or another) will they be controlled under the remaining CA regulations better than other states. In other words, CA can say "this is such a big factory, we need to look at the big picture and understand that if we can regulate them, it will be better for the overall health of the WORLD than if they go somewhere else. As such, we will reduce some of the requirements such that the overall benefi

  • by dltaylor (7510) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @07:44PM (#47667381)

    Businesses have repeated shown no concern for their workers or the surrounding populace when it comes to safety or pollution, and no remorse for the consequences of their actions. Rivers in the Appalachians, lead poisoning in Industry, plant explosions in Texas, worker deaths and oil spills from a rig explosion in the Gulf, the Ohio River literally on fire are all examples of this psychopathic behavior.

    If a business cannot provide a safe workplace, and clean up its own waste, it should not be in business, because neither of those is all that hard.

  • ...except those with several billon dollars.

       

  • begin construction and perform damage mitigation later

    Mining is often done with a promise or funds put aside to do rehabilitation later. Maybe their act needs to be amended to allow it to be extended to other cases like this in general instead of in specific cases.

  • by russotto (537200) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @09:22PM (#47667839) Journal

    1) Make rules that prevent anyone from doing anything.
    2) Waive rules for people and companies you favor.

    Now you effectively control who gets to do anything, and all in the name of the environment, or puppies, or whatever your original rule purported to protect.

  • There is always that strange force that drives people into evil. It is sneaky and persistent. So we have California who has better environmental protections than any other state but also is stuck with the curse of capitalism. Only growth appears to offer financial survival and in order to have growth and money they are willing to let the environment be ruined. The sad fact is that in reality California is over populated. Worse yet those large numbers of people live in an excessively dange
  • by Andover Chick (1859494) on Thursday August 14, 2014 @08:46AM (#47669791)
    California has so many lovely places: Richmond (Iron Triangle), Vallejo, Oakland, Antioch, South Central L.A.. We won't want to destroy the natural beauty of these post-industrial homicide capitals with bothersome economic prosperity.

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