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Tesla’s Berlin factory preparation work halted by German court due to forest-clearing concerns

Elon Musk’s plan to build an electric car plant in Germany has run into legal trouble after a court said clearing a forest near Berlin for a new Tesla Inc. factory must stop immediately.

The Berlin-Brandenburg higher administrative court said it overturned a lower court ruling against environmental group Gruene Liga Brandenburg, which has sought to immediately stop the clearing of forest. It also said a decision on the complaint proceedings is expected in the coming days. Until then, no logging of trees can take place.

The injunction threatens Tesla’s ambitious timetable of having the plant up and running from mid-2021.

If it does clear Germany’s red tape, the site could churn out as many as 500,000 cars a year, employ 12,000 people and pose a serious challenge to Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG and BMW AG. Musk recently tried to ease local concerns about water usage for the plant, which would border a nature reserve.

Workers have already scoured the equivalent of about 150 soccer fields of forest and removed most of the Second World War ammunition found there.

The project’s environmental stipulations include scaring off or relocating wolves, hibernating bats, snakes and lizards until construction is over. Under German environmental regulations, the project in the small town of Gruenheide must also consider the breeding period for local wildlife in spring.

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