Permit Applications Detail Needs for GM-LG Plant Site

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – General Motors Co. and LG Chem are shooting for an April start on construction of the $2.3 billion battery cell plant they want to build on a 158-acre site in Lordstown

That information, and an estimated January 2022 completion date for the plant, is included in the application for a water quality certification permit from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The project also requires approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

General Motors LLC, on behalf of GigaPower LLC – the working legal name for the GM-LG Chem joint venture – applied for the Ohio EPA permit Jan. 9. The EPA application can be viewed here and the Army Corps application here.

Parcels that were considered by GigaPower for the plant were required to be on the market and zoned industrial, and consist of 150 or more acres, with a preference for additional acreage to accommodate potential future expansion. Preference was also to be given to Mahoning Valley sites because of the “existing experienced labor force, the region’s positioning as a technology hub, and its proximity to supply chains, infrastructure and markets,” according to the OEPA application.

Using this criteria, the real estate firm contracted to conduct the search narrowed the list down to seven large sites and six small sites for GM to consider, the latter of which were not evaluated because they were “considerably less” than 150 acres. One of the seven large sites was a brownfield site that was eliminated for issues including uncertainty about completion of a Phase II environmental study and cleanup and the presence of underground foundations. 

The battery cell plant will need 1.6 million square feet of manufacturing space plus additional structures and features for support functions such as parking for employees. It will take up the majority of the site, according to the documents. The irregular shape limits alignment options for the building, and the elevation at the center of the site will require “significant grading.” 

Map provided by General Motors shows the location and layout of the battery plant site.

The selected site, directly east of GM’s former Lordstown Assembly Complex, offers the least environmental damage of the two sites narrowed down from a process that began with an initial list of more than 100 parcels identified, according to the application. It is owned by NorthPoint Development. 

Forested and nonforested wetland impacts totaled 65.99 acres, compared to 68.35 acres on the multiparcel, 304-acre site owned by Norfolk Southern and other entities, the second choice identified as Site 4 on the application. 

To mitigate the impact, the joint venture is proposing to provide “permitee-responsible mitigation” for the on-site wetlands on an approximate 180-acre parcel in the Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area, according to a public notice issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Stream impacts for the NorthPoint site would be 81 linear feet, compared to 600 for Site 4. The site, which is more than 90% forested, would require more than 100 acres of trees to be cleared, while approximately 50 acres would need to be cleared at the NorthPoint site.   

NorthPoint has a completed study showing that no protected bat species use the site, unlike Site 4. Additionally, there would be no impact on cultural resources.  

Other factors that worked in favor of the NorthPoint property, which is currently listed for sale at $35,000 per acre, included having sufficient acreage for the project – albeit “on the lower end of the sizing criteria” – zoned industrial, availability of electric, gas, sanitary sewer and communication utilities, and proximity of less than one mile from the nearest interstate. A new regional substation will need to be constructed to feed the plant. 

Site 4, on Ellsworth-Bailey Road just west of the Lordstown Motors Corp. plant – the former GM Lordstown plant – also has access to sanitary sewer and communication utilities, with gas available at the site and electric power not adjacent but “moderately available.” It also had good highway access and moderate ease of rail access. Cost per acre ranges from $37,000 to $50,000, documents say. 

For Site 4, the electrical feed would pose a “very difficult challenge” because the site is fed from a separate grid, and additional property and easement acquisition would be required. 

The application also notes that the acquisition process for Site 4 has been “problematic,” with purchase documents based on the verbal negotiations with the property owner.

“With the site needing to be acquired in early 2020, this has become an obstacle for potential development of Site 4,” GM wrote in its application. In contrast, GM entered into a contract to acquire the NorthPoint site in October. 

Additionally, the application states that GM prefers the NorthPoint site because the company is familiar with the property, which was previously part of the Lordstown Complex, the site already has rail service immediately adjacent to it, and both parties already have completed “considerable due diligence” to demonstrate that construction is feasible and allowing timely product design, “an important factor given the project’s timeline.”   

Other sites among the six large sites considered included two brownfield sites of 250 acres and 267 acres owned by BDM Warren Steel Holdings. Both had available utility infrastructure but transportation access was poor, requiring vehicular and truck traffic to travel through local neighborhoods and downtown corridors in Niles and Warren. 

The remaining large sites were in North Jackson and Lordstown. 

Pictured: The site where the joint venture between General Motors and LG Chem plan to build a 1.6 million-square-foot battery plant in Lordstown.

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