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Judge denies effort to block buffering plan for Rivian site
Rivian rendering
This exterior rendering of Rivian’s future Georgia manufacturing campus shows a view of the front of the plant building, along with planned green spaces filled with native plants. - photo by Special to The News

ATLANTA — The Georgia Office of Administrative Hearings has denied a legal challenge to the state Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) issuance of a state permit allowing development around on-site streams for construction of the Rivian project. 

The Office denied petitioner and nearby resident Julie Jenkins’ challenge to the EPD’s issuance of a stream buffer variance.

The denial was ordered on the grounds that the application by the state and site developer Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton Counties was complete and that the EPD properly considered the application and the required criteria before lawfully issuing the variance, said a statement from the JDA. 

“This decision will further enable expedited progress on grading the Rivian site, which will ultimately bring enormous investment and high-paying jobs to Georgia,” the JDA said in the statement.

Rivian plans to hire up to 7,500 for the massive facility on the state-owned site. 

Developers and Rivian have responded that they plan to meet or exceed area environmental standards on the site.

The judge’s decision “repeatedly” notes that impacts to the buffers around state waters have been avoided or minimized to the fullest extent practicable, a JDA spokesperson said. 

“Further, the order notes that the application complied with all legal requirements and that the petitioner failed to demonstrate that the application was inadequate or deficient. 

“The decision underscores the prudence and legality of the state’s and JDA’s approach to this important project, and it shows that the environmental regulators at EPD are thoroughly evaluating the project under Georgia’s environmental laws.”

The challenge to the state EPD-issued Stream Buffer Variance permit led to an automatic stay which prevented any construction work within the 25-foot buffers along the streams, said a JDA spokesperson.

Machinery used by grading company Plateau Excavating Inc. had been forced to sit idle — costing the state government millions of dollars — as the JDA and state of Georgia waited to grade portions of the 2,000-acre site.

Plateau is preparing the site — located on the north side of I-20 in Walton and Morgan counties — for the start of construction of the project planned for this year.

This story has been updated from a previous version.