Tesla’s German Plant Faces Deadline Over Breeding Wildlife

(Bloomberg) --

Tesla Inc.’s plans to build a factory outside Berlin could be under threat if construction work doesn’t begin by mid-March, according to the economy minister for the Brandenburg region where the site is located.

Under German environmental regulations, the project in the town of Gruenheide could be delayed by nine months unless work begins before the breeding period for local wildlife this spring, Joerg Steinbach said in an interview with the Handelsblatt newspaper published Friday.

“That would be a situation in which I would be much more skeptical about whether we could get Tesla to stick with it,” Steinbach said, adding that the U.S. manufacturer needs to have a convincing proposal to meet local environmental demands and gain approval for the project.

Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk recently tried to ease local concerns about water usage for the plant, which is located in a forest bordering on a nature reserve. That’s one of the bureaucratic challenges for the proposed plant, which represents the electric-car maker’s most daring attack on the German auto establishment.

Tesla’s German Plant Faces Deadline Over Breeding Wildlife

If the project clears Germany’s red tape and secures funding, the site could churn out as many as 500,000 cars a year, employ 12,000 people and pose a serious challenge to the likes of Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG and BMW AG.

Workers have already combed through about 150 soccer fields of forest and removed most of the World War II ammunition found there, according to Gruenheide’s mayor Arne Christiani. If Tesla files proper paperwork in the coming days, then logging could start in mid-February -- enough time to beat the breeding deadline, Christiani said on Friday.

“There are rules that everyone has to follow,” Christiani said in a phone interview. “But we’re still optimistic and are very much within our desired time plan.”

Tesla still has to jump through a number of hoops, including scaring off or relocating wolves, hibernating bats as well as snakes and lizards until construction is over. Residents still have the chance to raise objections, and some have bemoaned that they’ve seen little from Tesla since its blockbuster announcement.

To quell some of the more immediate concerns, the U.S. carmaker earlier this month dispatched consultants to an office in the center of Gruenheide to answer questions about the project.

Tesla is working closely with environmental groups to minimize the damage to wildlife, Christiani said, adding that he’s not surprised over some of the resistance to the project.

“There would have been opposition even if we had built a chocolate factory on the site,” he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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