Elon Musk’s first electric car plant in Europe is facing legal delays that could set the project back by several months after a court said clearing a forest near Berlin for the Tesla Inc. factory must stop immediately while it considers a challenge by environmentalists.
The Berlin-Brandenburg higher administrative court issued a temporary injunction against further logging, overturning a lower court ruling that had rejected a request by environmental group Gruene Liga Brandenburg. The group is seeking to prevent Tesla from clearing more of the trees and the court said it will make a final decision on the complaint in the coming days.
Tesla and the government of Brandenburg, where the plant is located, have until mid-day on Tuesday to respond to the court and will meet that deadline, Joerg Steinbach, Brandenburg’s economy minister, said on Twitter, adding that they will then “rely on the prompt decision” of the court
If Tesla doesn’t clear the forest by mid-March before the wildlife breeding period begins, construction could be delayed by six to nine months, local officials have warned. They’ve argued the site is an “inferior” pine forest that was planted to be harvested in the first place. Gruene Liga Brandenburg didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The injunction threatens Tesla’s ambitious timetable of having the plant up and running from mid-2021. If it does clear Germany’s red tape, the site could churn out as many as 500,000 cars a year, employ 12,000 people and pose a serious challenge to Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG and BMW AG. Musk recently tried to ease local concerns about water usage for the plant, which would border a nature reserve.
Workers have already scoured the equivalent of about 150 soccer fields of forest and removed most of the errant World War II ammunition found there. The project’s environmental stipulations include scaring off or relocating wolves, bats, snakes and lizards until construction is over. Under German environmental regulations, the project in the small town of Gruenheide must also consider the breeding period for local wildlife in spring.