17 Jun 2021, 11:51
Sören Amelang

New environmental lawsuit threatens Tesla Berlin factory with construction stop


Tesla may have to stop construction of its "Gigafactory" near Berlin following new legal action brought by environmental NGOs, reports Thorsten Metzner in the newspaper Tagesspiegel. The Brandenburg Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (Nabu), the environmental organisation with the largest membership in the region, and the Green League are suing for an immediate halt to the testing of machines in the paint shop, foundry and press shop, which is already underway. The NGOs argue the trials are irresponsible due to the risk of chemical leaks - for example in the case of a "coolant accident" in which highly toxic hydrogen fluoride escaped.

The state environmental agency had allowed Tesla to run tests at its own risk in the 15th preliminary approval in parallel with the ongoing main approval procedure. Tesla's permit applications will be put on public display again from Friday, because the electric car pioneer has expanded the project to include plastics and battery cell production. Tesla has also applied for permission to drive a further 1,150 piles into the ground for the expansion of the press plant, in addition to the 550 piles already installed. This is controversial because the factory is partly located in a drinking water protection area. In view of this development, the environmental agency could not simply stick to the "positive approval prognosis," the NGOs said. "One can no longer simply assume that there will also be an approval at the end of the process," Nabu's Christiane Schröder told the paper.

The company and the regional government both said last week they assumed production could start at the end of this year. The factory is set to churn out hundreds of thousands of electric cars in the birth country of the combustion engine, shaking up the car industry in Germany and Europe, and accelerating regional development and the shift to electric mobility. Construction is advancing rapidly even though the project is yet to receive final clearance from the authorities.

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