Residents in Social Circle and Rutledge, Georgia, were shocked to hear the news about a deal to land a $5 billion Rivian electric vehicle factory in their community. After failing to get clear answers, the community came together to raise thousands of dollars to hire an environmental attorney to explore their legal options to oppose the development.
Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon. This type of closed-door development, with deals cooked up in secret without any input from affected communities, happens to people in Georgia all the time.
Balancing Environmental Justice and Climate Action
Developments like this usually happen in lower-income neighborhoods and towns. It happens most often in black and other communities of color. As this community is about to find out, development like this is difficult to stop once the deals are made.
Over the years, the environmental justice movement has emerged in response to this type of development. Environmental justice demands the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people when it comes to development in their community.
GCV stands with the community in their concerns about how the Rivian electric vehicle plant will impact their quality of life, especially air and water quality.
Still, we know that we need to transition to a clean energy economy as fast as possible to protect our quality of life, air, and water now and for future generations. Electric vehicles are critical to that transition. In 2017, vehicles accounted for 43% of Georgia’s CO2 emissions — our most significant source. Switching to electric vehicles will help us dramatically reduce these emissions. The switch to EVs will also help improve air quality and help lower the rate of asthma in communities.
So yes, we are very excited about Rivian! The plant will significantly increase the supply of EV pick-up trucks, the best-selling cars in America. More EVs will accelerate our transition to a clean energy economy.
“Green” businesses don’t get a pass
As we transition to a clean energy economy, we must be mindful of how clean energy and sustainable technologies impact communities. Just because a company is “green” doesn’t mean they get a pass on that.
The planned Rivian plant is massive, and there is no denying things will change. However, we believe that change can be positive. The plant will bring 7,500 jobs to the area, more people than the city’s current population. These are good, high-paying jobs that many people in the community need and want. The economic activity can also positively impact local businesses in the area.
Rivian Inc. said it is proud of its environmental record and will extend that care to its new Georgia plant site. The company plans to pursue environmental impact studies to study traffic, light, sound, water, waste, and more. Rivian and its developers will take no actions without the involvement of people in the surrounding community.
Rivian must keep its promise to prioritize community involvement and develop the plant with minimal disruption to people’s lives and the natural environment.
Will Rivian keep its promise?
We have faith that Rivian will do the right thing. In Normal, IL, they started engaging with the community immediately after purchasing an old plant in 2017. They hired locally and had a positive impact on local businesses. They even turned down a $1 million grant owed from the city, saying “the funds would better serve our community by remaining with the municipality.” They stated at the time that the company’s growth in the area wouldn’t have been possible without the “trust, confidence and leadership” in the community.
We hope the community will stay engaged as the company pursues its environmental impact studies. People should attend any and all public meetings about rezoning and permitting. We also urge Rivian to follow through with its plans to conduct town hall meetings and to address all concerns.