Clearing for electric car factory: reptiles hinder tesla

Fence lizards and smooth snakes threaten the construction of the electric car factory in Grunheide. A court has partially ruled in favor of the conservationists who filed the lawsuit.

Now, for the time being, there is a partial end to clearing: Construction site in Grunheide (Brandenburg) Photo: Patrick Pleul/dpa

Tesla is struggling with major problems at its factory construction site in Grunheide, Brandenburg. On the one hand, work has been suspended since Friday because Tesla has not yet deposited a 100 million euro security deposit as a bank guarantee. The Brandenburg State Environmental Agency (LfU) is demanding this from the U.S. electric carmaker because the construction of a paint shop and clearing of 83 hectares of pine forest were only permitted as so-called "premature measures."

This means that Tesla will have to reverse both if the final approval for the overall project fails to materialize. Tesla, however, has not yet transferred the money – and has now been given a final deadline to transfer the money by early January in order to be allowed to continue building. The final approval for the construction of the plant is not expected until early next year.

As possibly still more lasting representatives of Nabu and green league evaluated on Saturday besides a judgement of the higher administrative court Berlin Brandenburg. It had granted on Friday evening a complaint of the federations partly. Afterwards the clearing work must rest at places on the area, where possibly still hundreds fence lizards and Schlingnattern live.

Christiane Schroder, chairman of Nabu, spoke of a "great success". The court had followed the request of the associations in "substantial points". The "protection of species has received its necessary appreciation," said Michael Ganschow, state director of the Green League. There was initially no comment from Tesla.

Lizards difficult to find

According to the ruling, logging may not continue on about 20 of the 83 hectares of forest threatened with clearing, especially in peripheral areas of the site. This is next to the car factory, which has already been under construction for months. The associations doubt that especially all threatened sand lizards have been relocated from the forest area as planned.

It is "not possible to have collected all of the protected animals after the two months of resettlement" that have already taken place, argued Thorsten Deppner, attorney for the associations. Only 17 fence lizards and 14 creeping snakes had been collected by Tesla. Much too little, according to Deppner. The associations estimate that hundreds of the reptiles still live on the construction site – and should not survive the clearing.

The males in particular had burrowed into the forest floor for hibernation during the relocation operation and were therefore difficult to find. The associations see here violations of an access prohibition in the species protection law. The resettlement action of Tesla was "not suitable to exclude a significant increase of the killing risk and thus a violation of the federal and European law prohibition of killing".

The OVG also saw it that way in part and prohibited clearing measures "in marginal areas of the areas intended for clearing." In another area threatened by clearing, the associations achieved a further success: In a long area along the A 10 freeway, felling work was prohibited, which had been justified with the necessary construction of a wastewater pressure line.

Inadmissible, because for this a procedure outside of the Federal Immission Control Act had to be initiated, so the court. This may now threaten, among other things, the construction of a temporary highway access to the factory site, because a new process with hearings must be initiated.

Tesla’s schedule in jeopardy

With regard to the remaining area, however, the associations’ complaint was unsuccessful. On about 60 hectares of the area threatened with clearing, they were unable to show that reptile habitats were involved, according to the court.

Tesla’s tight schedule is now likely to be in serious jeopardy. Since the beginning of the year, the U.S. company has been building its first "Gigafactory" in Europe in Grunheide, and the first of initially up to 500,000 Model "Y" cars were supposed to roll off the production line in the middle of the year. Costs: over one billion euros, of which about a third should already have been installed. Up to 12,000 people are to be employed here. The project is currently one of the largest industrial settlements in Europe.

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