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Berlin court stops Tesla forest clearance

February 16, 2020

A German court has halted the clearing of thousands of trees to make room for Elon Musk's electric car factory south-east of Berlin. Green groups forced the stop, just days after the felling began.

Area where Tesla will build its Gigafactory 4 on the outskirts of Berlin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Pleul

A German court has ordered the temporary halt of the development of a Tesla development site in a forest outside of Berlin.

The Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg (OVG) ruled late on Saturday that it must first consider an appeal from the Green League Brandenburg, an environmental protection association, against the tree felling.

Environmental organizations became outraged once the cutting of trees over 91 hectares of forest commenced Thursday.

The Green League called for an immediate stop to the felling and had filed an emergency appeal on Friday to put a stop on the construction of Elon Musk's "Gigafactory."

"We are calmly awaiting the decision of the OVG," government spokesman Florian Engels said on Sunday. "This will be taken for granted," he added.

"We then focus on the timely decision of the OVG," minister of economics in the German state of Brandenburg Jörg Steinbach wrote on Twitter.

Read more: Opinion: Tesla's Germany plans are no coincidence

Court to consider appeal

The court said that the "already advanced" work at the forest would have been "completed within three days" and so decided on imposing a temporary halt. The court added it would not assume that the Green League's appeal "was obviously hopeless from the outset."

The US electric car giant wants to start production in Grünheide in Brandenburg as early as the middle of next year.

On Thursday, Germany's environment ministry had given Tesla permission to begin work "at its own risk."

The car manufacturing company initially wants to produce 150,000 electric vehicles per year in Grünheide. Later, annual production could rise to 500,000 vehicles. Up to 12,000 workers will be hired at the factory.

The final construction permit has not yet been issued. According to the environment ministry, complaints against the factory can still be filed up until March 5.  After that, the final permit will be reviewed.

Wildlife threats

The state of Brandenburg sold Tesla the 300-hectare site in Grünheide for almost €41 million ($44 million).

In the next month, the area will be searched for any waste deposits or explosive artillery from the Second World War.

The German government also recently announced that protected animals in the forest will be "recovered and moved to suitable locations" by April.

mvb/mm (AFP, dpa)

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