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Rivian receives federal wetlands permit to expand site work

211220 Kemp Rivian.jpg
Office of Governor Brian Kemp
Governor Brian Kemp speaks at December 2021 event announcing Rivian's intent to build a major manufacturing facility in Georgia

An electric vehicle factory 45 minutes outside of Athens received a permit to expand construction work into protected streams and wetlands.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the 404 permit on Wednesday, allowing Rivian to continue preliminary construction work of a 2,000-acre factory. Rivian started work earlier this year on a section of the property in Morgan and Walton counties. The permit allows Rivian to continue construction on the rest of the site.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Corps reports that Rivian’s plan will disrupt nearly five acres of federal wetlands, around 18 acres of ponds, and over three miles of streams. The permit requires Rivian to purchase wetland and stream mitigation credits. These credits will make Rivian responsible for wetland and stream upkeep in other areas as compensation for environmental damages caused by factory construction.

While Rivian markets itself as environmentally conscious, this is not the EV company’s first issue with environmental concerns. Earlier this month, five plaintiffs from Morgan dropped a lawsuit against Rivian for flooding their properties with mud and polluting their drinking water. The plaintiffs dropped the suit shortly after a Georgia Superior Court Judge declined to issue a stop-work motion on the factory’s development.

Rivian also went to court in September with the support of the Joint Development Authority (JDA) of Jasper, Morgan, Newton, and Walton counties with a petition to validate $15 billion in taxable revenue bonds. Morgan County Superior Court Chief Brenda Trammel ruled against Rivian and the JDA, stating that the factory did not “promote the general welfare of the local community.” State and local officials are working to appeal the ruling.

Rivian promises to create 7,500 jobs in exchange for over $1.5 billion in incentives including tax breaks, grants, free infrastructure and land from state and local officials. On Tuesday, the Center for Economic Accountability (CEA) named the $1.5 billion deal the “Worst Economic Development Deal of the Year” for insufficient research into environmental damages caused to local communities. According to their website, the CEA gives the title to an organization that “best exemplifies the massive wastefulness and ineffectiveness of government economic development subsidy programs.”