LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Lana Theis on Thursday opposed a Senate Appropriations Committee vote transferring $175 million from the state’s Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) business incentive fund to the Chinese battery maker, Gotion, and The Right Place economic development group, who are planning an electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant near Big Rapids.
Theis has adamantly opposed the project, which is set to receive a total of $872 million in state and local incentives. The senator said the deal presents multiple threats on multiple fronts, from environmental endangerment, risks to public health and safety, and state and national sovereignty and security concerns.
“It is bad enough that Gotion has deep ties to and is directly influenced by the Chinese Communist Party,” said Theis, R-Brighton. “But that association only scratches the surface of the risks Gotion’s battery plant will bring to our state.
“The Gotion plant is set to be built near the Muskegon River — the plan has yet to receive the environmental impact study and/or approval necessary for such a project. Neither Gotion nor economic development officials have addressed any questions or concerns about its plans for this plant or track record on existing plants in terms of environmental impact. We don’t know how much water it will use, whether it would be recycled before being dumped back into state waterways, how much energy would be consumed, or how it could mitigate, contain and expunge a fire. We also don’t know how or if the company plans to secure the transportation of the highly volatile materials that go into making vehicle batteries, which are highly combustible and toxic.
“These environmental risks pose a direct threat to public health and safety. A disaster at the plant would likely cause significant harm to water, land and air, which could cause mass evacuations and take years and many millions of dollars to clean up at taxpayer expense. Local populations near the plant lack the ability to deal with the potential disasters that could occur, through no fault of their own. It would require many more resources, people, and equipment — all at a significant cost that local governments can’t afford. Additionally, an accident during the transportation of batteries and components on Michigan’s wintery roads threatens life and the state’s infrastructure.
“The cherry on top is the existential threat of armed conflict between the U.S. and China. By law, as a Chinese company, Gotion must submit to CCP directives, which could include espionage and intellectual property theft — acts that our own FBI deems its top counterintelligence priority. And if worse comes to worst, it is not inconceivable that China could weaponize the plant causing untold damage and security risks.
“Gotion crafted, in secret, a sweetheart deal with eager government bureaucrats that threatens our state and national sovereignty and security, the environment, and public health and safety, while essentially costing the company nothing in return. Gotion is being paid to come here, will pay nothing in return in terms of local taxes, and will not be responsible for cleaning up its potential environmental catastrophes. The plant’s looming disaster is a risk too great to ignore and I worry Michigan will soon regret its decision.”