Steffen Schorcht’s voice sounds occupied. Last weekend, the 63-year-old sales employee demonstrated with more than a thousand demonstrators in front of the gates of the Tesla factory in Grünheide, Brandenburg, for three days. This Thursday, Schorcht wants to protest again, this time in front of the Müggelspreehalle in Grünheide. Because today, what he sees as the crucial meeting for the future of his homeland is taking place there.

In the multi-purpose hall, community representatives are supposed to vote on development plan No. 60: Elon Musk’s company wants to clear another 50 hectares of forest and build a freight station in the water protection area. The balance of power in the local council leads to the expectation that the local representatives will approve the development plan.

Some residents don’t want to accept this. “We will take legal action against a positive expansion decision,” Schorcht announced to stern. Schorcht is spokesman for the Grünheide citizens’ initiative, which is critical of Tesla. A citizens’ initiative group is planned to join forces with other environmental associations and climate protection initiatives, including the “Turn off the tap from Tesla” alliance. Presumably one of the large environmental associations will officially lead the lawsuit, and the other initiatives will contribute financially.

The critics’ anger is also so great because many people in the region feel that their concerns are not being taken seriously by politicians. Last year, a sociological study by the Leibniz Institute for Spatial Social Research warned of the high political costs that the Tesla settlement in Brandenburg had entailed so far. The residents have the impression that they have not been sufficiently informed and involved by politicians.

The result: disillusionment with politics. Nevertheless, there is currently one party in Grünheide that is clearly against the expansion of the plant. The AfD. This is all the more astonishing because local elections will take place in Brandenburg on June 9th. And because in a citizen survey in February 2024, the majority of Grünheide residents spoke out against the expansion. The vote actually represented a clear order for politicians to reject the project.

However, Tesla responded to the fatal survey results and presented a revised development plan. Instead of the originally planned 100 hectares of forest, around half is now to be cleared. The freight station will continue to be built on the property east of the Tesla factory. Tesla, on the other hand, had deleted a factory kindergarten and some storage areas. Grünheide’s non-party mayor Arne Christiani spoke out in favor of the revised development plan and called it a “compromise”.

For many residents, however, this sounds like pure mockery. They fear that the company is already endangering the region’s water supply on the existing area. The work is located on a drinking water protection area. Research by stern and RTL revealed last year that there had been more than two dozen accidents on the site since it opened. The now planned freight station is also to be built on a site that is located both in the water protection zone and in the landscape protection area.

In fact, a possible “yes” from community representatives to the development plan is therefore not legally binding at all. The Ministry of the Environment must first approve the separation of the property from the landscape protection area. The Oder-Spree district must also grant the requested exemption in accordance with the Water Resources Act.

“We hope that this doesn’t happen,” says Schorcht from the Grünheide citizens’ initiative. A freight station poses a further threat to the region’s drinking water. “Among other things, chemicals are also transported via the station,” says Schorcht. The plans are also fatal for species protection. The forest, which is threatened by deforestation, is a habitat for smooth snakes and sand lizards.