Tesla confirms it is suing Alameda County over factory reopening dispute

Auto manufacturer Tesla has announced in a blog post that it has filed a lawsuit against the California county where its factory is located, seeking to invalidate shelter in place orders barring the factory from resuming operations.

The dispute arose over Tesla’s decision to reopen its Fremont factory after the state of California loosened its shelter in place order this week. However, Alameda County, where the factory is located, continues to have a shelter in place order in effect and the local restrictions take precedence over the state ones.

“Contrary to the Governor’s recent guidance and support from the City of Fremont, Alameda County is insisting we should not resume operations,” Tesla’s blog post read. “This is not for lack of trying or transparency since we have met with and collaborated on our restart plans with the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. Unfortunately, the County Public Health Officer who is making these decisions has not returned our calls or emails.”

CEO Elon Musk threatened to pull the Tesla factory, the company HQ, and all future programs out of California following the spat.

Musk announced on Twitter that “Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately,” and that “If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependen [sic] on how Tesla is treated in the future.”

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

In an online town hall meeting on Friday, Erica Pan, interim health officer for Alameda County Public Health Department, said that Tesla had not been given the go-ahead to reopen the factory.

Musk seemed to take this decision very personally, taking to Twitter to call Pan “unelected & ignorant” and saying she was “acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!”

He threw the company’s weight around as well, saying that, “Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA” and “Tesla is the biggest manufacturer in California & second biggest exporter.”

Musk has been a vocal skeptic about shelter in place orders, calling them “fascist” and “de facto house arrest.” Tesla previously chose to keep the same Fremont factory open in spite of a closure order, only relenting under pressure from the County.

Despite his claim that “Tesla knows far more about what needs to be done to be safe through our Tesla China factory experience than an (unelected) interim junior official in Alameda County,” many of Musk’s hot takes on the topic of coronavirus and lockdowns are not supported by the facts.

Update May 10, 2020: Added lawsuit information from Tesla blog post.

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