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    Tesla resumes work on first European factory

    © Belga

    U.S. auto giant Tesla on Friday resumed the clearing of a site near Berlin where it aims to build a factory after a local court lifted a suspension imposed earlier in the week in response to a lawsuit by green groups.

    “Work has resumed,” the French news agency, AFP, was told by a spokesperson for the Office of the Mayor of Grünheide, in the state of Brandenburg.

    Grünheide is scheduled to become the first town in Europe to host a Tesla car factory. On Thursday evening, the town’s administrative court lifted a suspension of the construction works that it had ordered a few days earlier, following the suit by the Grüne Liga (Green League), a collective of ecological groups that opposes the cutting of the 90 hectares of trees.

    This is not the first time the U.S. auto giant has come up against environmental hurdles for its German factory. In mid-February, the German press had highlighted the car manufacturer’s many obligations to protect the area’s fauna, particularly ants and birds. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the company is required, for example, to dig up many ant colonies and relocate them elsewhere.

    Other than the disappearance of the trees, the ecologists are afraid the factory may adversely affect the region’s drinking water supply and add to road traffic. They also note that the U.S. transnational has not yet completed the process of obtaining a construction license, for which it needs to go through various procedures, including an upcoming “external” audit.

    Announced in November by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the factory is scheduled to supply Europe with vehicles, batteries and equipment, starting with the Tesla Y and 3 models.

    Tesla signed a contract with the regional government in January for the purchase of the land, following which it was given the authorisation to begin construction work “at its own risk” pending the final construction permit. The Grüne Liga opposed this, stressing in a press release early this week that Tesla needed to comply with the same procedures as all other companies. However, the court ruled on Thursday that the legal requirements for an early start to the construction of the factory had been met.

    There were mixed reactions to the decision on Friday. Activists climbed a number of trees on the site in protest, but Economic Affairs Minister Peter Altmaier welcomed the ruling, which he saw as “good news for protecting the climate, jobs and future technology.”

    Tesla is a leader in the market for electric vehicles while German manufacturers are still trying to catch up. It plans to build 500,000 cars a year at its Grünheide site.

    Oscar Schneider
    The Brussels Times