Tesla site blocked twice in one week in Germany over hibernating snakes and lizards

After briefly getting the greenlight to continue clearing a forest near Berlin, Tesla was ordered by a second court to halt work. Nature conservationists have raised concerns about lizards and snakes living in the woods.

Tesla site blocked twice in one week in Germany over hibernating snakes and lizards

Work on Tesla's planned factory outside of Berlin was halted for the second time this week, after a court issued a temporary halt to construction on Thursday.

The Berlin-Brandenburg Upper Administrative Court ordered Tesla to halt work on clearing a forest after nature conservation groups Green League (Grüne Liga) and the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) filed an emergency appeal.

Hours earlier, an administrative court in the eastern city of Frankfurt an der Oder rejected an emergency appeal lodged earlier this week by the conservation groups, ruling that an existing Tesla permit was lawful.

The rejection meant Tesla got the green light to continue clearing trees — but activists immediately filed a renewed injunction with a higher court. The environment ministry for the state of Brandenburg gave the initial green light on November 30.

Tesla received a permit last week to clear 83 more hectares (205 acres) of pine trees for its "Gigafactory" in Grünheide, south of Berlin. That comes on top of the initial 92 hectares of forest that was cleared during preparation work for the site.

Concerns for local wildlife

The legal case specifically focuses on concerns for the well-being of hibernating snakes and lizards who live in the forest.

Tesla carried out measures to relocate Europe's indigenous smooth snake (Coronella austriaca) and the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) between August and September this year.

The conservationist groups argued that many of the animals might have been missed, as some of the lizards head to their winter quarters as early as July and August, while some of the snakes head underground in September.

The groups argued that continuing to clear the forest could kill sleeping snakes and lizards that were left behind — putting Tesla in violation of Germany's Federal Nature Conservation Law, which bars killing "strictly protected species."

Locals in the town of Grünheide where the plant is being built have also raised concerns that the plant could further aggravate water concerns.

Tesla plans to build around 500,000 of its Model 3 and Model Y electric cars at its new plant, and hire over 10,000 workers. The factory, where Elon Musk also hopes to launch a major battery manufacturing operation, is currently slated to open in July 2021, despite a series of similar delays in courts.

(DW, dpa, AFP)