Tesla’s Europe Gigafactory in Grünheide is heading for a showdown. “The project is in a much better position than many believe,” said Brandenburg’s Minister of Economic Affairs, Jörg Steinbach (SPD), the Tagesspiegel. He reckons that “the first salable car from Grünheide will still be able to roll off the assembly line in 2021”.
But now there are new hurdles and risks: environmental associations such as the Green League want to sue against the latest advance approval from the State Environment Agency for test runs in the paint shop because, in their opinion, the risk of accidents has been ignored.
The Green League initially objected, confirmed managing director Michael Ganschow the Tagesspiegel. The Brandenburg Nature Conservation Union is examining legal steps. In a letter to Brandenburg’s Environment Minister Axel Vogel (Greens), four environmental associations warned against further approvals due to the risk of accidents, but in vain. The State Environment Agency does not consider the deficiencies serious and can be remedied. And Tesla, the energy transition is the company’s business model, has expanded the project to include battery cell production and rescheduled it again.
For example, after the legal conflict over deforestation last year, where construction of the factory began six months after Elon Musk’s first announcement, there is a risk of renewed legal proceedings. They carry the risk of jeopardizing the new production start of the Gigafactory at the end of 2021 after the beginning of July burst.
Specifically, according to Tagesspiegel research, Brandenburg environmental associations are likely to complain that the State Environment Agency has allowed the US manufacturer of e-cars to prematurely “function tests” of machines, for example in the paint shop, although an accident report revealed deficiencies in the plant’s safety concept.
Naturschutzbund calls action by politics and authorities „Tragedy“
It is a “tragedy, how carelessly authorities and politics deal with all of our livelihoods,” said Schröder. It is accepted that the drinking water supply of a region may be contaminated. “Sure, jobs are important, but not at this price and at this speed”. The Grünheide citizens’ initiative is calling for construction to be halted. “The Gigafactory must not create a precedent for undermining environmental law in Germany,” said its spokesman, Steffen Schorcht.
The reaction is also so harsh because all of the state’s environmental associations – the nature conservation association, the Green League, the BUND and Naturefriends – had warned the environment minister Axel Vogel (Greens) in a letter dated May 28, 2021 that, despite the current reports on accident safety, the company “Approvals for early start continue to be granted unchecked”.
Four days later, the State Environment Agency allowed Tesla – in parallel to the ongoing main approval process – with what is now the 16th early approval, “functional tests” of systems, including in the paint shop or foundry. Tesla is already allowed to process 25 tons of aluminum there to test smelting furnaces. The State Environment Agency, on the other hand, considers the deficiencies from the accident report to be all remediable and a higher hazard class for the factory to be unnecessary.
The relationship between associations and the Environment Ministry, led by Vogel, is now considered to be strained because of the Tesla project. In the letter, the associations warned that, according to the accident report, “in particular the most serious accident involving a coolant leak associated with the formation of highly toxic hydrogen fluoride must be fundamentally re-examined and assessed”.
In the letter, signed by Nabu boss Friedhelm Schmitz-Jersch, country boss Heinz-Herwig Mascher (Green League), Axel Kruschat (BUND) and Grit Nehrau (Nehrau), the four associations demanded that all previous early approvals be revoked.
With pre-approvals, Tesla can drive construction forward
With the recently issued advance permits for 24-hour operation as well as the installation of chimneys, robots and rainwater basins as well as the test runs, Tesla can continue to build the already well-completed factory in the coming months at its own risk, while the main approval process in one A new round is on: Originally it was supposed to be a pure electric car plant with a planned annual production of 500,000 Teslas of the Y model series.
In the meantime, Tesla has applied for the expansion to include battery cell production with the new application submitted on Thursday and once again fundamentally rescheduled the configuration of the factory. As this newspaper made public, Tesla manages without higher water consumption despite the addition of the battery factory, which was not to be expected.
As the press shop is being expanded, a further 1180 foundation piles are required. This is explosive because parts of the factory premises are located in a drinking water protection area. The 500 or so foundation piles approved so far were already controversial. Due to the extensive rescheduling, the documents will be publicly displayed again shortly, with the possibility of new objections. The internal “task force” that Tesla set up in the Gigafactory for the final phase of the project is getting more and more busy.