In the rural and wooded region of the Land of Brandenburg, near Berlin, a haven of peace for holidaymakers, hikers and other cyclists, a gigantic industrial site has emerged in less than a year. The first buildings of the future Tesla factory have already come out of the ground.
Placed on some 300 hectares of sand, on which ants work like ants, diggers resembling miniature toys, these vast hangars announce what will become the first European site of the American firm directed by the bubbling Elon Musk. Eventually, 500,000 electric vehicles should roll off the line every year. With 40,000 jobs at stake.
Opening postponed until the end of the year
“We won the lotteryrejoices Arne Christiani, the mayor of the neighboring town of Grünheide (8,000 inhabitants). Our young people will now find work in the region. » Except that the Tesla factory has fallen behind: it was to spit out its first electric vehicles during the summer; finally, it will not open before the end of the year.
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If the regional elected officials of the Greens approve the project, two local environmental organizations are watching over the grain. “The principle is simple: if they don’t comply with environmental protection laws, it ends up in court.says Steffen Schorcht, member of one of them, the Grüne Liga. We have drones and you can see a lot of things from the site gates. As soon as we notice an irregularity, we report it.»
Preserving the smooth crownwort, an endangered species
This is how controllers from the Brandenburg environmental office recently landed on the site, alerted by the association to the construction of several reservoirs without authorization. “We are not against Tesla or against electro-mobilitysays Steffen Schorcht. Moreover, we speak regularly with the management of the company, but this project is disproportionate to the site. For example, Tesla’s water needs threaten the water table that lies just below the plant. We cannot compromise on this issue. »
For the two environmental associations, there is no small fight: at the start of the project, they had obtained the temporary suspension of the deforestation of 90 hectares of forest, the time to move the smooth coronella, a species endangered snake. However, these “anti” are under no illusions. Even ready for dialogue on the protection of lizards or ants, and even if it has revised its water needs downwards, the American firm will not give up its factory.
A finicky German bureaucracy
Is it through ignorance of Germany or a lack of long-term planning? Tesla also hustled the very finicky German bureaucracy by adopting the so-called “salami” tactic, slice by slice, to obtain its authorizations – which further slowed down the procedure. At the end of 2020, for the first phase of work, the American giant only requested one building permit, for its electric car production lines. To date, moreover, this final permit has not yet been granted.
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Theoretically, in the event of refusal – unlikely – the firm should restore everything, it has undertaken to do so. But rather than wisely wait for the official green light, Tesla announced last spring its intention to install an electric battery factory on the site, presented as “the largest cell factory in the world ».
He therefore had to apply for an extension of the building permit and provide the administration with the documents proving that all the standards in terms of noise, odor, emission, water and respect for biodiversity were going to be respected. . Which documents, which can be viewed online, have been the subject of more than 400 objections from private individuals or organizations that the Land administration will have to hear in September…
“It’s not about opening a nuclear power plant either! »
Fervent promoter of the project, the Minister of Economics of Brandenburg has lost patience: “When we are done with Tesla, we will have to think about reforming this procedure”said Jörg Steinbach, to limit the rights of environmental organizations to file complaints in the future. “It’s not about opening a nuclear power plant either! »he even added, exasperated.