Tesla to deforest further at Giga Berlin site at own risk

The Brandenburg State Office for the Environment has granted Tesla permission to begin further clearing work on the Giga-Berlin site in Grünheide ahead of schedule. Tesla continues to carry out the approved measures for the construction of Gigafactory 4 at its own risk.

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At the end of August, Tesla applied to the clearing of a further 100 hectares of forest on its Grünheide site. The examination lasted three months, as it was also necessary to take into account findings that the approval authorities had gained during the latest discussion with critics of the plant. This was announced by the environment office several weeks ago.

The Brandenburg authorities have now approved the clearing of a further 82.8 hectares of forest. “The scope of the application has been reduced several times to the measures and areas that are absolutely necessary at the present time,” the State Office for the Environment in Brandenburg explained. Tesla wants to create areas for pipelines and storage, which are needed for further construction progress. The work can now take place on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tesla has to document compliance with the noise protection requirements using appropriate measurements and prove this to the State Office for the Environment by presenting the measurement reports, the company continues.

Tesla’s construction progress for the Gigafactory 4 in Grünheide has so far been based solely on provisional permits made possible by the Federal Immission Control Act. According to earlier information from Brandenburg’s Minister of Economics, Jörg Steinbach, the final environmental permit should be available by mid-December 2020. Most recently, in mid-November, the State Environmental Agency granted preliminary approval for the construction of supporting structures for roofs and external walls in the area of the foundry and the press shop. As this did not involve any additional use of land or other environmental impacts, the approval process was quick. This was in contrast to the now pre-approved clearing, where requirements for nature and species conservation and replacement reforestation have to be observed. If the final approval of the overall project is not granted, “all buildings already erected must be removed and the area reforested at the investor’s expense,” the authorities emphasised.

Update 03 December 2020: Tesla has now also received approval from Brandenburg’s State Office for the Environment for the early start of installation of a paint shop in Grünheide. Tesla had submitted the corresponding application together with the application for an early onset of clearing at the end of August. The ministry reports that the test for the paint shop was also extensive and detailed because it concerned the operating unit in the water protection area, where chemicals are handled. For this reason, all containers must either be double-walled or set up in a sufficiently large collection room.

Apart from that, no new areas are needed for the painting plant, as it is being built in an existing construction phase. According to the approval authority, construction is permitted around the clock: “Due to the current pandemic situation, an exception to the ban on night work is permitted so that the work can be carried out in compliance with distance and hygiene requirements.”

Update 08 December 2020: The administrative court at Frankfurt/Oder has temporarily halted further clearing on the site of the future Tesla factory in Grünheide in Brandenburg, reports the Tagesspiegel newspaper, citing an interim injunction issued by the court, which has not yet decided on the matter. The background to the temporary stop of clearing is an urgent application by Brandenburg chapters of national environmental associations against the clearing of a further 83 hectares of pine forest recently approved by the State Environmental Agency.

National German environmental protection groups Nabu and Grüne Liga submitted a complaint. The latter, together with the Bavarian environmental association VLAB, had already filed a complaint during the first clearing. Still, in February before the Administrative Court and the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg, the complaint was dismissed.

Update 10 December 2020: The temporary halt to further clearing on the site of the future Tesla factory in Grünheide, Brandenburg, which was imposed via an urgent application by two environmental associations, has been lifted. The Administrative Court of Frankfurt (Oder) has now rejected the emergency application against the permit for further tree felling granted on 30 November by the Brandenburg State Office for the Environment in a decision dated 10 December and declared the permit to be lawful.

In the reasoning of the court, it is said that the weighing of the nature conservation concerns by the State Environmental Agency is not objectionable. The judges go one step further: They assume that this will “with a probability bordering on certainty” also be upheld in the main proceedings.

Update 11 December 2020: Only a day after the Administrative Court of Frankfurt (Oder) lifted the temporary ban on clearing at the Giga Berlin site, conservation associations immediately filed an appeal with the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg. There is now an interim order in place to halt the deforestation until the court decides on the appeal. The new order is to prevent a “fait accompli,” said the Senate and added that the decision would not allow predicting the outcome of the proceedings and appeal.

Update 16 December 2020: The municipality has now set the course for better traffic conditions for the Tesla factory in Grünheide. The “almost unanimous” decision paves the way for an expansion of traffic connections around the said industrial area. It also paves the way for the reconstruction of a railroad crossing and the construction of new park-and-ride lots at the closest train station, Fangschleuse Bahnhof. The municipal district still has to confirm the new development plan. Its approval is expected in early January.

As reported by Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, the state will then begin planning the roads and highway exits. However, the construction of these will probably take years. For this reason, according to RBB, the development plan provides for a temporary highway exit, which Tesla plans to build at its own expense as early as the beginning of 2021. Speed is also to be set for the parking lot at Fangschleuse Station. There the municipality wants to build at its own expense. The rest of the infrastructure will probably be paid for by the federal government and the state, the article continues.

Update 18 December 2020: Meanwhile, work at the Gigafactory construction site in Grünheide will once again be interrupted: According to information from the Tagesspiegel, Tesla is not allowed to continue the installation of the machines in the paint shop and the clearing of the forest until the company has deposited the security deposit of 100 million euros required by Brandenburg’s State Environmental Agency for any dismantling costs. Both of these are stated in the new decision issued by the State Environmental Agency on December 17. Tesla now has until January 4, 2021, to do this. As long as the money is not there, the two partial permits will be suspended. Tesla had applied for an extension of the deadline to Jan. 15 through its lawyers on Dec. 16, the day before it expired, because “the provision of the amount to be provided requires internal coordination and processes that could not be completed within the days since the notice of approval of the early start.”

Update 19 December 2020: After the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court issued an interim order on December 10 halting the clearing work pending a decision on the appeal, the OVG has now ruled on the merits: The appeal of NABU Brandenburg and the Green League Brandenburg is partially granted. Clearing measures in peripheral areas of the areas intended for clearing and in a narrow strip along the highway are prohibited. With regard to the remaining parts of the areas planned for clearing, however, the appeal was unsuccessful.

teslarati.com, mluk.brandenburg.de (in German), teslarati.com, tagesspiegel.de (in German, update 3 December), reuters.com (update 8 December), teslarati.com (update 10 December), berlin.de (update 11 December, appeal, in German), automobilwoche.de, rbb24.de (update 16 December, roadways and train station, in German), tagesspiegel.de (update 18 December, in German), berlin.de (update 19 December, in German)


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