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Rivian responds to environmental criticism from residents near site
Rivian site photo
Rivian's planned site next to U.S. Hwy. 278 in Social Circle is shown in December 2021. - photo by Tom Spigolon

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — Facing a rash of criticism from some of its prospective new neighbors, Rivian Inc. said it’s proud of its environmental record and will extend care to the site of its new Georgia plant.

The company intends to build an automotive plant on nearly 2,000 acres in Morgan and Walton counties. 

Dozens of people spoke Tuesday to oppose the project at a meeting of the Joint Development Authority, the board that serves as developer for the project announced last month.

A Rivian spokesperson issued this statement Wednesday, a day after the JDA met in Madison:

“Rivian cares deeply about the impact on not only the people near its locations but equally on the land, water, and other resources involved. We have the opportunity to participate in impactful community engagement that improves the natural world and contributes to the mission of ‘Keeping the World Adventurous Forever.’

“We are currently conducting several environmental impact studies, including but not exclusive to water; forest; wetlands; and storm water retention, reuse, and restoration on the site. We are closely studying traffic, erosion, lighting, parking, and topographic impacts to prioritize a localized look and feel to the proposed facility as well as site safety, a minimized impact, and a direct connection to nature.

“We will share more details about our planning and learnings as they are available, but we want to emphasize that no actions will be taken without the involvement of those that will be directly impacted. Rivian always commits to hearing and acting on community perspectives.”

Gov. Brian Kemp announced Dec. 16 that Rivian would be coming to the Stanton Springs North industrial site, which is at the northeast corner of the intersection of I-20 and U.S. Hwy. 278.

Several surrounding properties are being purchased for the project and must be rezoned, a process that requires approval by local governments. 

First up is the Walton County Planning Commission for portions of the project in unincorporated areas of the county. That group meets Feb. 3 in Monroe.

Some of the people who attended the JDA meeting Tuesday said they feared the environmental impact of Rivian on land that is mostly undeveloped. The possibility of groundwater contamination from used lithium batteries was a concern raised by one of the residents who spoke.

JDA officials have said Rivian plans to conduct town hall meetings in the community.

Rivian expects to break ground later this year and begin producing vehicles by 2024. The California-based company already makes electric trucks and SUVs at a former Mitsubishi facility in Normal, Illinois.