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Rivian Factory in Georgia Faces Opposition Due to Environmental Concerns
When we first heard about people opposing the Rivian plant near Atlanta, Georgia, we had the impression that those who lived in the area just did not want the company to change their way of life. JoEllen Artz, the president of the No2Rivian organization, told autoevolution their issues with Rivian are broader than that and include environmental concerns.

Rivian Factory in Georgia Faces Opposition Due to Environmental Concerns

Morgan and Walton county residents make it clearRural areas in the small towns of Madison, Rutledge, Social Circle, and many others close to Rivian's future plant in GeorgiaNo2Rivian logoRural areas in the small towns of Madison, Rutledge, Social Circle, and many others close to Rivian's future plant in GeorgiaRural areas in the small towns of Madison, Rutledge, Social Circle, and many others close to Rivian's future plant in GeorgiaRural areas in the small towns of Madison, Rutledge, Social Circle, and many others close to Rivian's future plant in GeorgiaA Rivian battery pack awaits inspection before heading to the chassis lineA fully assembled Rivian drive unit, containing two motors and an inverter, which powers the wheelsR1T tophat and skateboard are married at the start of the trim buildRivian's manufacturing plant in Normal, IL employs multi-level automated conveyance systems to transfer vehicles and components between stationsRivian's efficient dry capture paint process uses less than a gallon of paint per vehicleR1T door panels ready for installation on the trim lineAs of November, 2021, Rivian employs 3,400 team members at its Normal manufacturing campus with plans to double the local headcountRivian R1S SUVs near completion on the trim lineRivian R1S SUVs near completion on the trim lineRivian's 3.3-million-square-foot facility, previously owned by Mitsubishi, has been extensively renovated and expandedA Rivian paint team member looks on as an R1T makes its way through the state-of-the-art paint shopNew Rivian paint team members training in a spot repair boothInspecting a Rivian R1T door panel prior to final assembly on the trim lineRivian's first manufacturing campus in Normal, IllinoisRivian's press shop in Normal, IL has six main press lines stamping out thousands of different vehicle partsRivian R1S SUVs being transferred between stations on the trim line in general assemblyRivian R1S SUVs being transferred between stations on the trim line in general assemblyAn R1T in Rivian Blue at the main entrance to the plant in Normal, IllinoisPlanning for the Rivian Georgia plantNo2Rivian shares with autoevolution all its concerns with its Georgia plant
Ironically, the first worry that Artz shared with us has to do with groundwater reserves. Yes, you have already heard about that. However, it was not about something happening in the U.S.: it was in Germany – or Grünheide, to be more precise. It also did not involve Rivian but one of its future competitors: Tesla.

“We have never been against the factory because ‘it will change the way we live.’ Our main concern is for the water. Our county has no public utilities, which means that we all have wells as our source of water. Even the small city of Rutledge supplies all the water to its residents from wells.”

The No2Rivian president explained that the terrain where the Georgia government wants Rivian to use sits in a groundwater recharge area. That means that the soil that Rivian will cover with concrete and asphalt works like the filter for groundwater reserves, collecting water from multiple sources.

“By the time it’s really deep, the water is as pure as you could ever want. The filtering process is done by the blades of grass, roots of plants and trees, passing through dirt and gravel, etc. Nature does a fabulous job of purifying water.”

Any sort of building in that area is a huge concern for Artz and the people who live around it.

“According to Rivian’s plans, there will be 20,000,000 ft² of impermeable surface just for buildings. Then you have to add all the roads and parking lots and sidewalks, and the heavily graveled area for the railroad siding, and they’re having a race track as well. All this impermeable surface will prevent the groundwater from seeping down as it must in order to replenish our wells.”

The No2Rivian president elaborates on that.

“A study that was done by a state organization said that this project will hurt our wells, keeping us from getting the same amount of water and as good quality of water. And that was before we learned that Rivian plans to build lithium batteries at the factory. Now there is concern that our water will be poisoned.”

We asked Rivian and the Georgia government about that. Nobody from governor Brian Kemp’s office got back to us. Rivian did that and pointed us to a Q&A prepared by the JDA (Joint Development Authority) of Jasper, Morgan, Newton, and Walton Counties.

In this document, the JDA addresses the concerns about groundwater in this excerpt:

“11. What considerations are being made to address the groundwater recharge area, local wells, and other environmental concerns?
a. Groundwater will be protected through the strategic management of stormwater runoff, the use of water & sewer service through the Newton County Water & Sewerage Authority, and strict adherence to state and federal guidelines regarding soil erosion and sedimentation as well as appropriately addressing streams and wetlands on the site. Studies are currently being conducted on the site, which will inform the final design and site layout, including delineation of streams and wetland, geotechnical evaluations, cultural resource evaluations, and surveys. All state and federal permitting requirements will be met, and impacts to streams and wetlands will be mitigated as required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
b. Rivian and the JDA both want to be responsive to recommendations from local residents that would help protect water and the other natural resources we all share. If residents have recommendations that can further protect our natural environment, we welcome them.”


Artz disputes that.

“There are three springheads on the property which all become rivers which feed into lakes. They are going to fill in the spring heads and build on top of them. Experts say this will do harm to the rivers and the lakes and, if there were a hazardous spill, all water, including our recharge water, would be contaminated. There are five lakes or ponds on the property, and three of them will be filled in with buildings on top of them. What a disaster!”

This is just the first environmental concern the No2Rivian president shared with autoevolution. She is also afraid of what can happen to the wild animals that live in the area.

“This is also 2,000 acres of wonderful grasslands, trees, lakes, and streams. The wildlife will have nowhere to go. The deer will starve. The ground animals will have no grass on which to feed, the birds of prey will have no ground animals to eat, and the most wonderful bird of all, the American bald eagles that live in this area, will go away.”

It would not be the first time, according to Artz.

“They left our area many years ago, and only through thoughtful conservation were we able to get them back again. Rivian will ruin our landscape and countryside just as they are ruining the Sterrebos forest in the Netherlands. The CEO, RJ Scaringe, just wants to build a monument to himself. I hate the company!”

There are two other environmental concerns related to Rivian installing in that region, linked to two institutions in the area. The first relates to astronomy.

“Georgia State University has an observatory that they moved out to Rutledge many years ago because we have no light pollution. They came here for the Dark Skies so that they can actually see the stars, which you can’t do in a well-lit area. Rivian says this will be a 24-hour a day operation, which will require them to have lights on in the parking lots and around the perimeter of the building. That will make it impossible for the university to see the stars at night.”

The second has to do with children.

“Just one mile away is a very special facility called Camp Twin Lakes. This is a camp where hundreds of children come for a week in the summer or a weekend the rest of the year. All the children are either physically challenged or socially challenged and the camp is very concerned about the effects on their well water as well as the air the kids breathe, which can be polluted from the battery operation. If there were to be a lithium battery fire, the kids would have to be evacuated and they don’t have the means to do that.”

Apart from these issues, the No2Rivian organization also raised suspicions about how the JDA and the state government conducted the process.

“We also oppose it because our county’s primary source of income is from agriculture. Every 20 years, the county has to create a Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which is then updated every five years. Because our county depends on agriculture for its main source of revenue, it was declared in the 2017 – 2036 Comprehensive Land-Use Plan that this part of the county should always remain agricultural.”

Until Rivian decided Georgia would have its factory, there were some clear rules in place.

“In our county, it is against Planning & Zoning rules and regulations to change a property from agricultural to heavy industrial, and heavy industrial zoning cannot touch agricultural zoning, which is what the property around it is zoned as. To avoid this problem, the state of Georgia took over the project several weeks ago and declared that it will be rezoned as heavy industrial in spite of our county’s rules.”

Artz accused governor Kemp of changing the rules while the game was being played.

“The state government is very concerned about us because they were afraid that we had hired an excellent lawyer who was going to be able to get the rezoning denied on our behalf. Because of that, two days before our county was going to hear our lawyer’s comments, the state took the project away from the JDA and officially declared that the land was automatically rezoned. They completely took our voice away.“

The new zoning created a problem for other residents.

“We live very near to the proposed factory and were required to purchase four acres for our house to keep an agricultural feel to the area. There are very few neighborhoods in our county because we are large lot properties. We do not have small lots for our homes.”

The No2Rivian president also said the state government is trying to make it seem like the residents in the area are all in favor of the factory.

“We do know that the government lies about us. They told the newspapers that they took a survey of 350 people in our area, and by a margin of 2:1, they favored the factory. We have over 3,000 people in our group, and not one of them was included in the survey. It has to be a lie that the project is favored by so much.”

Artz told us that the factory will actually be placed in two of the counties that the JDA represents: mostly in Morgan “and some in Walton county.” That would prevent people in Newton or Jasper county from objecting to the factory as much as those directly affected. Some of them were really hit, as the No2Rivian president told us.

“We have what is called eminent domain in our state, but it can only be used for purposes of the state obtaining land that is for public use. There are two ladies who have had problems with this project, so I’ll address both. One has 40 acres of pasture that has beef cattle grazing on it. The JDA told her they wanted to buy it for this project, but she said no as she wanted to leave it for her children.”

The JDA would not have taken a no as the answer.

“When she said no, she was told that the state wanted it for a new entrance and exit of our expressway, so if she didn’t agree to sell her land, they would take it and would choose the amount of money she would be paid. She was offered a nice amount of money to agree or a low amount of money to have it be taken. She finally agreed to sell but is extremely unhappy because it appears that the state can change your plans without your consent…”

The second situation did not have to do with plans but rather with memories.

“The second lady, who has a very sad story, was told she didn’t have to sell, but she would have a factory in her backyard. Over 20 years ago, she and her husband retired and moved out here from Atlanta. They bought a home that was over 200 years old and which they dreamed of fixing up to be a dream retirement home.”

This woman’s husband did not have time to see these plans completed.

“He died shortly after moving out here, but she still carried out her dreams and finished restoring the home. It is from the very late 1700s, one of the oldest around here. She was told on a Saturday morning by a representative of the JDA that they were going to knock her house down to build a factory, so she needed to find a new home and move. This was devastating to her because she clung to this house after losing her husband. It was her connection to him. The JDA finally agreed to move the home to a new location away from the factory.”

You read it right: the entire house will be moved to new terrain, an operation as complex as it is expensive. Artz does not have the details about the deal because the lady who was forced to sell signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) that prevents her from clarifying that.

Ironically, the JDA has a section about eminent domain in its Q&A:

“2. Was eminent domain used to acquire any properties related to the Rivian Project?
a. No. Eminent domain has not been used on any properties associated with the Rivian project or any JDA project in history. The Authority does not have the power of eminent domain by law per O.C.G.A. § 36-62-6(b).”


If the JDA does not have the authority to use eminent domain, the state government does. As per what Artz told us, it seems they have played “good cop, bad cop” to convince people to sell their lands to the project. They did that but still opposed the idea.

One of the main arguments of the JDA in favor of the factory is that it will create jobs. The No2Rivian president questions that.

“There are people who are in favor of it because they think the jobs will be good for the area. Our community has an unemployment rate of only 1.9%, so we do not need jobs. There are restaurants and businesses that have had to close or are only open part-time because they cannot get enough employees.”

In other words, the Rivian plant could make that situation even worse.

“The business owners are very afraid that they will lose all their employees if the factory opens. Many of us in this community are people who have retired after living and working in large cities and we have moved out here to have a leisurely life. We don’t need nor want jobs.”

For Artz, the only reason for Rivian to install in Georgia was a promise related to direct sales.

“Today (March 15) was a very important day for our state legislature as it was the last day that the house could pass a bill and send it to the senate or the senate could pass a bill and send it to the house. The house and the senate each have a proposed bill that would allow Rivian to sell directly to customers without dealerships but it does not appear that either bill received a vote and both could be dead. Rivian was going to build in North Carolina but North Carolina would not let them sell directly so they chose to try Georgia instead. They just need to go away and leave us alone.”

In a previous contact with Rivian, the company released an official statement. This one:

“Rivian recognizes that with our project in Georgia, we have a tremendous opportunity for a constructive and positive community relationship centered around bettering our planet for future generations.

Our chosen site meets so many criteria that are important to us: access to a talented and diverse workforce; a quality education pipeline; opportunities for abundant renewable energy; superior transportation outlets and options; and importantly, a community we want to become a part of. We plan to create up to 7,500 well-paying jobs, forge new partnerships with local businesses and institutions, and provide a sustained local career path for talented young people.

For us to be successful in Georgia, it’s important that we spend time listening to local concerns, addressing them as best we can, and working hard to be the kind of neighbor the community would like to see. We share what we understand to be one of the community’s core beliefs – and that is to leave this place better than we found it. This spring we’ll be hosting events, alongside local and state representatives, that will introduce the community to our products, our employee team, and to area employment opportunities. It’s the first of several upcoming opportunities residents of the region will have to interact with Rivian products and employees, and we’re looking forward to sharing more information.”


Too bad that Rivian has not spent time with the local community so far.

“They also say that Rivian has spoken with us and will continue to. Nobody from Rivian has spoken to any of us. We have never had a conversation with anybody from Rivian.”

Artz has a bitter conclusion about the EV maker.

“Rivian is considered a ‘green’ company but it is really a non-green company making a green product in a totally non-green manner. If they really cared about us and listened to our concerns, they would realize it is a terrible thing to build where they will ruin our water source.”

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