Ultium Cells Development Site

The U.S. Department of Energy has invited six Native-American tribes to consult on preservation aspects of the Ultium Cells development project.

The Energy Department has consulted with the Tennessee Historical Commission on how best to comply with federal code regarding historic properties within the target area of the $2.3 billion development project because the National Historic Preservation Act obligates the department to operate within certain regulations in circumstances like that of its involvement with Ultium Cells. The agency and the commission determined that the Ultium Cells project will adversely affect the Haynes Haven Stock Farm and the Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center. 

As such, the Energy Department solicited the input of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, Cherokee Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Muscogee Nation in its Section 106 review process.

Section 106, called “Protection of Historic Properties,” is a set of regulations in 36 Code of Federal Regulations Part 800 whereby Native tribes are not only notified but consulted via written correspondence, meetings, phone conferences, e-mails and visits to the site. This is invoked at times even when the land in question no longer belongs to the tribes of this land.

This comes two months after General Motors hosted Earth Day onsite in the form of a community tree-planting event to replace the general vegetation destroyed by the construction project. The development has progressed with considerable pace, having commemorated the installation of the structure’s final beam with a topping out ceremony earlier this month after only just announcing the imminent project around this time last year.

Ultium Cells applied for federal financial assistance via the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan program. The company exercised rights circumstantially afforded to certain organizations under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Introduced in Congress by the Democratic Party and ratified by President George W. Bush, the law was passed to, among other things, enhance the nation’s energy independence and security, increase renewable fuel production and increase the energy efficiency of products, buildings and vehicles. 

The ATVM program is expected to lend funds to Ultium Cells for the purpose of building and tooling of its 2.8-million-square-foot battery plant in the Maury County segment of Spring Hill as well as the construction of a recycling facility onsite. Participation in the program, however, makes General Motors and LG Energy Solutions — the proprietor corporations that share ownership of the joint venture, Ultium Cells — beholden to the Energy Department’s requirements.

Funding would also be allocated to several auxiliary structures plus soil storage areas, an existing spoil pile and a utility corridor. The recycling facility is already planned to span 120,000 square feet, excluding its parking area. In tandem with the main facility and auxiliary structures, this project will account for 274 acres.

The ATVM program falls under the federal jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Energy who is subject in a project like this one to regulations set by the National Historic Preservation Act.

The two agencies have jointly concluded that the Haynes Haven Stock Farm, for instance, is agriculturally eligible to be indexed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its role as a show farm for Tennessee Walking Horses and its breeding connection with known horses.

The property is also considered a local example of late classical revival architecture for the farmhouse with a Craftsman-style horse barn like those of the late 19th century. Both agencies also agree that the Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center is eligible to be listed on said Register for historic preservation.