Tesla in Grünheide: Environmental groups go back to court

The environmental associations NABU and the Green League in Brandenburg are again taking action against early approval for the construction of the Tesla factory in Grünheide near Berlin. They submitted an urgent application to the Frankfurt (Oder) administrative court on Wednesday, as confirmed by the associations’ lawyer, Thorsten Deppner, of the dpa. The State Office for the Environment (LfU) had previously rejected a suspension of the pre-approval demanded by environmentalists. Tesla did not comment on the dpa request on Wednesday.

This early approval involves testing the functionality of systems in the paint shop, foundry and body shop. In addition, tanks for wastewater treatment and the refueling system have been approved ahead of time. The Ministry of the Environment had emphasized that it was not a trial run. Only small amounts of water-polluting and accident-relevant substances would be used in the function tests, so that the knowledge gained from the accident report submitted does not conflict with this decision.

The environmentalists see it differently and now want to have it checked by the court. “It is not even clear whether the company is subject to the extended obligations of the Hazardous Incident Ordinance and whether a corresponding safety report would be necessary. This means that the red line has been crossed,” said the managing director of the Green League, Michael Ganschow. Without a change in the mode of operation, among other things, the safety of the plant cannot be guaranteed. For this reason, the plant’s approval capability must be viewed as “open”, which means that the positive approval prognosis required by the Federal Immission Control Act is no longer tenable.

Christiane Schröder, Managing Director of NABU Brandenburg, made a similar statement. At the latest after the submission of new application documents by Tesla, the necessary positive approval prognosis can no longer be adhered to. From the point of view of the associations, this means that all other not yet completed approvals of the premature start are to be revoked or revoked – until a forecast of the approval capability of the entire system can be made at all.

The US electric car manufacturer submitted new application documents for the construction of its factory in early June. The changes in the ongoing approval process were necessary, among other things, because the company is also planning to manufacture battery cells on site. The documents should be available to the public from this Friday.

If the administrative court stops the 15th early approval, Tesla would have to interrupt the functional tests for now, lawyer Deppner said. He firmly expects that the proceedings will be continued in any case before the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg.

In mid-December 2020, the environmental associations had achieved partial success with a complaint before the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court. The associations had opposed the early approval of the clearing of almost 83 hectares of forest on the site on which the Tesla factory is being built. The OVG decided that the US electric car manufacturer was not allowed to clear any forest areas on parts of its construction site.

Tesla plans to build around 500,000 Model 3 and Model Y in Grünheide (Oder-Spree) every year. The final environmental approval via the Federal Immission Control Act is missing for the construction. The US company is therefore building with early approvals. The timing of the final decision is unclear. Originally, the company wanted to start production in July. During a visit to Grünheide in mid-May, Tesla boss Elon Musk named the end of the year as the date.


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