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30 Dec, 2020 14:58

‘Very sensible’: Elon Musk cheers as German politicians call for curbing of eco-lawsuits like the one targeting Giga Berlin

‘Very sensible’: Elon Musk cheers as German politicians call for curbing of eco-lawsuits like the one targeting Giga Berlin

German politicians argue for limiting the right of environmental associations to file class action suits against large construction projects. The debate was welcomed by Elon Musk, whose Gigafactory near Berlin came under attack.

“This is very sensible,” the Tesla CEO tweeted, reposting the news. “Seems odd that the opposition group is from BMW’s home state of Baveria [sic]. That’s very far from Brandenburg, where Tesla is building the Gigafactory.”

The Tesla factory being built in Gruenheide 30km south-east of Berlin is expected to go online next summer. But the project still does not have a final environmental permit from the state of Brandenburg and is going on under provisional approval, exposing it to legal action. This month, conservation groups NABU and Green League successfully sought a court injunction on forest felling in some areas of the Giga Berlin construction site, arguing that it endangers protected species.

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Considering that the plant would be a major employer, creating as many as 40,000 jobs should all its expansion plans come to fruition, there are plenty of people who are unhappy with the obstacles. Some German lobbyists and politicians have been calling for limitations on the right to file class action lawsuits by preventing local associations from challenging projects in other federal states.

It’s not applicable to the latest hurdle, but earlier this year an association based in Bavaria sued the electric car giant over the same claim, that its Brandenburg project poses a threat to protected species. Critics believe these lawsuits abuse Germany’s environmental protection laws and hurt investment.

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“We have to limit the right to class actions to environmental associations that are directly affected,” Carsten Linnemann, a Christian Democrat MP who heads the pro-business wing of his party, told the newspaper Handelsblatt.

Social Democrat Johannes Fechner, an MP and legal expert, agreed. “Important construction and infrastructure projects can indeed be unnecessarily delayed by such legal action, and that has to change,” he said.

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Of course, not everyone agrees that Tesla’s interests should go before those of hibernating reptiles. Handelsblatt columnist Daniel Delhaes penned an angry rebuke, saying that the US company is apparently seeking special treatment and does not want to abide by the same rules as German companies.

“Brandenburg is not the Nevada desert,” he wrote. “It may sound crazy that an environmental group from Bavaria complains about what happens in the east of the country. But such groups stand up for the common good.”

Musk should do better planning for his projects, take care to obtain necessary permits in time and not forget to provide necessary security deposits if he wants the project to go smoothly, the columnist said, referring to another recent hiccup in the Giga Berlin construction.

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