Tesla faces local backlash over Germany plant as hearing begins
Tesla Inc.’s push to build its first European car factory is facing a key test this week, with local residents able to voice their concerns over issues from water usage to noise pollution at a public hearing near Berlin.
Citizens have filed more than 400 objections to the project with authorities in the state of Brandenburg, where Tesla is building a factory in the small town of Gruenheide to assemble as many as 500,000 cars a year. They’ve complained that construction is too loud, hundreds of trees were cut down for the factory, and that it’s being built in a region with scarce water resources.
“My concerns are manifold," local resident Frank Gersdorf said while queuing to get into the town hall for the start of the hearing on Wednesday. “The problem is that the end result of the proceedings, a green light for Tesla, looks like it’s already predetermined."
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The plant that underpins Tesla’s European expansion plans is slated to start production in the summer of 2021. The U.S. company still needs final approval from authorities for the site, and while the hearing is one of the prerequisites for that, German officials have repeatedly signaled they’re behind the project. During a visit to the site by Elon Musk earlier this month, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier promised the Tesla chief executive whatever assistance is needed to get the facility up and running.
Musk himself has started somewhat of a charm offensive, tweeting in German on several occasions to advertise the project. He also tried to address water concerns linked to the site, saying during his visit earlier this month that the factory will recycle “as much as humanly possible" and that Tesla is open to outside advice on what it can do better.