German court upholds tree-felling ban at Tesla plant site

BERLIN (AP) — A German court ruled Saturday that automaker Tesla has to stop clearing trees on some parts of the site outside Berlin where it is building the company's first electric car factory in Europe.

The top administrative court in the Berlin-Brandenburg region upheld an earlier temporary ban on the clearing of the forested site after two environmentalist groups appealed a lower court’s decision to allow the tree-cutting. It specifically ruled that areas on the fringes of the plot where protected species live may not be cleared.

The court also said that Tesla had not provided demanded information on paying for possible environmental restoration projects until a deadline earlier this week, German news agency dpa reported.

The company planned to open the factory next summer. It was not immediately clear if the ruling would cause a delay.

The cased resulted from a lawsuit brought by environmental groups NABU and Gruene Liga, which claimed that wildlife in the forest hadn't been safely resettled before the clearing started. They were particularly concerned about sand lizards and smooth snakes, NABU wrote on its website.

Both are protected species in Germany.

Tesla expects to make 150,000 electric cars a year at the new plant starting in mid-2021, with plans to increase that number to half a million annually.

The company, which is headquartered in California, announced late last year that it had decided to build its first European factory in the Berlin area. The planned site is at Gruenheide, just east of the capital in Brandenburg state

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