Tesla Reopens California Plant, Says It Has Alameda County’s Approval

Tesla vehicles are parked at the company's assembly plant in Fremont, Calif., on May 11.
Tesla vehicles are parked at the company's assembly plant in Fremont, Calif., on May 11. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

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Tesla Inc. told employees that a California county health official has now signed off on safety measures the company took last week at its car plant as it restarted production in defiance of the area’s shutdown order.

The Alameda County health officer’s approval means Tesla has local support to resume full production starting this week, Laurie Shelby, the company’s environmental, health, and safety vice president, wrote in an email to staff May 16 that was viewed by Bloomberg News. Representatives for Tesla and the county didn’t respond to queries outside regular business hours.

The county’s authorization could resolve a highly contentious episode in which Elon Musk threatened to move Tesla’s headquarters and future programs out of California and sued the county over its health officer’s resistance to reopening the factory in Fremont. It’s unclear whether the CEO will now follow through on his warnings, which also included shifting the company’s manufacturing out of the state.

When Tesla was resisting calls to idle the factory in March, Fremont officials sought clarification from Alameda County as to whether the company was an essential business. Erica Pan, the county’s health officer, considered the plant to be a public health risk, according to documents obtained through a California public records request.

Musk’s recent comments and threats drew mixed reactions. President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tesla should be allowed to reopen, and the mayors of Palo Alto, where Tesla has its headquarters, and Fremont, which is home to its plant and roughly 11,000 employees, offered words of support.

But other California politicians rebuked the CEO, and his rocket company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., was denied a request for state funds to support job training and hiring May 15.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said May 17 on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Tesla didn’t get preferential treatment over other companies.

“It’s a spirit of collaboration,” Newsom said. “Those that continue to pursue things that put people in harm’s risk, you have to have stepped-up efforts of enforcement and sanction. But that was not the case in respect to Tesla. They did work with Alameda County partners. And Alameda County health officials are satisfied that they are likely to reach those thresholds as early as [May 18].”

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