Ohio EPA certifies water quality for new GM plant

LORDSTOWN — General Motors has cleared another critical hurdle toward building its $2.3 billion next-gen battery-cell plant — this one at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The state Wednesday issued water quality certification for the project, a 2.5 million-square-foot building the automaker is building with LG Chem — a plant GM plans to heavily rely on as it progresses toward an all-electric vehicle future.

The certification is a required component of an application GM made on behalf of the joint venture with the South Korean company — under the working name GigaPower LLC — to the Army Corps of Engineers for permission to discharge dredged or fill material from construction into streams and wetlands in the Mud Creek Watershed.

“We’re obviously pleased by their decision,” GM spokesman Dan Flores said. “This is another step forward in the project, toward making the project a reality.”

GM still needs the environmental OK from the corps of engineers under the federal Clean Water Act and a stormwater permit from the Ohio EPA. Flores said the automaker doesn’t anticipate any issues with being approved for either.

The environmental permits go hand in hand. According to Scott Hans, regulatory division chief for the Corps of Engineers’ Pittsburgh District, any discharges that require permission under the federal law must be compliant with Ohio’s water-quality standards, and the state must issue water-quality certification in regard to those standards for the federal authorization to be valid.

According to a release from the state, comments about the project during its public-comment period primarily were related to water quality, wetland impacts, mitigation and stormwater.

In late March, GM finalized the purchase of 158 acres on Tod Avenue for $5.1 million with NP Lordstown 173 LLC, an affiliate of Kansas City-based North Point Development. The land for the plant is immediately adjacent to GM’s former assembly plant and once was owned by the automaker until it unloaded it as part of its 2009 bankruptcy.

GM has an aggressive timelime to get the facility built — it is planned to produce battery cells that will be used in packs to power 11 of 13 electric vehicles the automaker plans for in the next five years. It would employ upward of 1,100 people. The automaker hopes to break ground by July and have construction done by January 2022.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction, and I’m glad GM and LG are stepping up to address the issues,” Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill said. “I look forward to getting this project underway.”

Construction will disturb about 65 acres of low-quality wetlands. To mitigate the damage, GM plans to convert about 170 acres — 40 more than required — in Mecca Township. The property on Mahan Denman Road north of state Route 88 is owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. GM will be responsible for monitoring the site for 10 years to ensure its success, but then it reverts back to the state and will be wetland in perpetuity.



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