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December 8, 2020 11:15 AM, EST

Tesla’s German Factory Faces New Snag After Court Halts Logging

Tesla's factory stands on an area of cleared forest in Gruenheide, Germany, on Sept. 20.Tesla's factory stands on an area of cleared forest in Gruenheide, Germany, on Sept. 20. (Alex Kraus/Bloomberg News)

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Tesla Inc. was ordered by a local court to halt tree clearance for its new factory near Berlin after complaints from two environmental groups, potentially disrupting progress in completing the company’s first European gigafactory.

In a temporary injunction, the court in Frankfurt-Oder on Dec. 7 ordered a stop to logging on a 205-acre pine forest section of the site after a lawsuit brought by the Nabu and Gruena Liga ecology groups. The lobbies claim that Tesla’s efforts to save protected lizard and snake species before logging were inadequate.

The section takes up almost a third of the 740-acre factory plot and is earmarked primarily for waste water facilities.

 

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Moves by Tesla in the late summer to capture and relocate the reptiles left a number of them on site, and they now face being killed by logging in their winter shelter, according to the lobbies. The species are strictly protected by European law, and Tesla is required to save all the animals, they said.

Tesla gained permission last month from Brandenburg, the factory’s host state, to clear the section at it’s “own risk.” Earlier this year, the carmaker overcame a logging dispute over another section of the Gruenheide forest surrounding the facility.

The court may decide as early as this week to give Tesla the go-ahead to resume work, judging its record in relocating the reptiles as adequate, or order a new approach from the company, said Thorsten Deppner, an attorney representing the lobbies.

The upshot may mean a delay in completing the factory, which Tesla, backed by federal and local politicians, wants up and running by July. Deppner declined to speculate on the duration of a possible logging delay.

Construction documents filed by the company show planned outlays of about 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion), of which some 300 million euros has been spent, according to a Tagesspiegel newspaper report Dec. 8.

Christiane Schroeder, managing director of litigant Nabu Brandenburg, said she doesn’t expect the lawsuit to cause a major delay to logging, perhaps only a “matter of weeks.”

“It’s not our aim to stop the factory being built but to protect nature and ensure strict observance of the law,” Schroeder said. “There can’t be one law for Tesla and one law for everyone else — however much political pressure there is to build the factory.”

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