Opponents trying to derail a $5 billion, 7,500-job electric truck plant in Georgia dominated a state meeting this week that sought suggestions on how to design the plant to mitigate any impact on the environment.
The state assumed oversight of the Rivian Automotive project after opponents overwhelmed Morgan County planning and zoning officials. The plant was announced by the company and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp in December, and is the largest industrial project in the state’s history. The first meeting of one of the oversight committees was held Monday in the city of Monroe.
The Irvine, Calif.-based electric vehicle maker said last year it would build the facility on a 2,000-acre (809-hectare) site in Morgan and Walton counties, about 72 miles east east of Atlanta, along Interstate 20. It plans to produce up to 400,000 vehicles a year there. Rivian, which also has a factory in Normal, Ill., said it hopes to start as early as this summer and begin production in 2024.
The state panel, led by John Eunice, deputy director of the state’s Environmental Protection Division, didn’t get much cooperation from a hostile crowd that gathered at the Athens Technical College in Monroe, media reported. Opposition to the plant has been strong from Rutledge area residents who say the plant will ruin their rural quality of life.
Residents slammed the meeting as a sham, saying it is impossible to make meaningful suggestions when there is no factory design yet and saying the state is only working to get the factory built .
“I was sitting at home and saw my governor come on TV and say Rivian, a 2,000-acre factory, coming to Rutledge, Georgia, and that’s a done deal,” Pam Jones said. .
Many speakers on Monday expressed concerns about possible contamination of well water, light pollution and the disruption of wildlife habitats and farmland for heavy industry.
“I don’t understand why you’re sitting on this side of the table, which is the Rivian side of the table and why you’re not sitting here asking Rivian and Governor Kemp to explain this environmental project and how it’s a disaster. said Edwin Snell of Oconee County.
A Rivian executive was present by videoconference but did not speak at the hearing.
A Rivian spokesperson said the meeting was a valuable opportunity for the company to gather feedback and that the company is committed to sharing details of its plans for the site once they are complete and ” will meet our own high design and environmental standards.
The plant is a divisive issue in Georgia’s Republican gubernatorial primary, with former U.S. Senator David Perdue attacking Kemp for agreeing to the Rivian location without neighbor support.
Eunice said he does not know when Rivian will apply for the environmental permits needed to build the facility. He said the division would collect public comment on the permits. Monday’s meeting was the first of four scheduled for the site’s design and environment committee. The state is planning four meetings each with three other committees to look at quality of life, workforce, and local business engagement issues.