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Early talks on environmental issue good for all

General Motors did the right thing by inviting a local environmental group to meet with the company to discuss the group’s concerns ahead of next month’s public hearing about a permit application to build a new electric vehicle battery plant on Lordstown acreage that includes a large swath of wetlands.

Friends of the Mahoning River was opposing the plant’s proposed location because it will destroy wetlands.

GM, however, says its application contains plans to mitigate the damage done at the Tod Avenue site in Lordstown by replacing the wetlands in northern Trumbull County.

The $2.3 billion joint venture with South Korea’s LG Chem to build battery cells for electric vehicles is planned for 158 acres adjacent to the automaker’s former assembly plant in Lordstown.

Construction will disrupt 66 acres of wetlands, of which nearly 17 acres are forested and 49 acres are nonforested. GM plans to restore more than 130 acres of wetlands in the Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area in the Mahoning River watershed “as the best way to replace the ecological value and function” of the lost wetlands, according to a GM spokesman.

The property sited for the mitigation in Mecca is owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

During the meeting with GM officials in recent weeks, Friends of the Mahoning River questioned why GM couldn’t build on a brownfield site, rather than the currently proposed greenfield site. GM indicated it considered such options, but found that remediation required to build on a brownfield would add many months or years to the development process, which isn’t compatible with the aggressive schedule GM has set to build the plant and begin manufacture of the battery cells.

GM wants to break ground on the site in April with completion expected by January 2022 to help meet the automaker’s goal of 20 battery-powered vehicles in production by 2023.

We are pleased that the sides are in early discussions about the environmental concerns, and we hope they both will continue reasonable discourse.

At the end of the day, however, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will make the ultimate decision on the development proposed for this wetlands area.

We will be watching with great interest and hoping that a reasonable plan can be agreed upon that will balance the needed economic development with environmental concerns being raised by the Friends of the Mahoning River group.

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