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Rivian plant will hurt rural Georgia, opponents say

Electric truck plant to create jobs, hazardous waste in bucolic rural area

RUTLEDGE, Ga. — A new report paints a troubling picture for an area promised to benefit from the state’s largest-ever economic development. The Rivian electric truck plant is expected to open in 2024 just east of Atlanta. 

The report describes how the area would change and the project is drawing stiff opposition. The proposed electric truck plant has quickly evolved into a kind of David versus Goliath story – with resistance getting louder and louder.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration negotiated the deal to put the Rivian electric truck plant in an area spanning three counties east of Atlanta.  But the deal, negotiated in secret, blindsided some folks locally.

"They’re completely going to change the entire way this county is and looks and operates and feels," said Justin Kennedy, who lives in downtown Rutledge with his wife and two young children.

The Rivian plant would build electric trucks and SUVs on 2,000 acres of land, employing 7,500 people.  A Northeast Georgia Regional Commission impact study concludes the plant would also do the following:

  • Negatively impact groundwater
  • Generate hazardous waste
  • Change the character, natural & cultural resources of an area that has stayed mostly rural.

"The plant’s going to be that way," gestured JoEllen Artz, who moved here 18 years ago because of its rural character. 

The local newspaper said the new plant would be bigger than Disneyland, and bigger than Vatican City.

The impact is "not going to be just the plant itself," Artz said.  "It's going to be roads, parking lots, train lines. They’re going to cover up ponds and spring heads."

Artz has led a group that has raised more than $100,000 from folks living near Rutledge to hire a law firm, specializing in environmental litigation, to fight the plant.

"They don’t lose and they said they’re going to stop it," Artz said.

The community's fight will pit it against a governor seeking re-election and the state's powerful economic development apparatus.

"People who live out here moved here to get away from Atlanta, and the traffic and the noise and pollution," Kennedy said.

"And now it’s followed us out here."

The Rivian plant would still require numerous approvals from local government boards. Opponents said they would be happy to see the plant built– just not here. 

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