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TESLA Inc. looking to bring lithium refinery to Coastal Bend

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Posted at 10:43 AM, Sep 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 22:28:45-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Tech giant TESLA Inc. is clearing a path to potentially bring a lithium refinery to the Coastal Bend, according to an application submitted to the Texas Comptrollers Office.

The application submitted by Tesla is an application for tax breaks in the state for the building of the facility. In return, companies awarded this type of tax break, tax code 313, they would in exchange pay a fee to the school district they are in.

The application states Tesla is looking to build a "battery-grade lithium hydroxide refining facility," which it states would be the first of its kind in North America.

The company is also looking to include additional facilities to "support other types of battery materials processing, refining and manufacturing."

The facility would be constructed near Robstown, on the West side of U.S. Hwy 77 and County Road 28, according to the application.

“They’ve already worked with the school district, the Robstown School District and that was approved by the school board," said John Valls, executive director for the Robstown Area Development Commission.

A letter from Robstown Independent School District Superintendent Jose Moreno from Aug. 22 was included stating the districts intent to to consider establishing a reinvestment zone in connection with the application submitted to the comptrollers office.

According to the application, a facility in Louisiana is also being considered by the company.

If the site in Robstown is chosen, early construction on the facilities would begin in the fourth quarter of 2022. The target date for commercial operations would be the fourth quarter of 2024.

Valls, said if Tesla chooses to come to Robstown, the refinery would be around 500 acres.

He said the Robstown Area Development Commission is serving as a liason between the project's team and local governments.

Valls said it's now up to the comptroller to decide on whether Tesla will be given the tax break.

He added it could bring serious growth to the area.

“You're going to have these support type services. You're going to have smaller businesses located adjacent to it, so they can support supplies, processes, and services to the main plant,” Valls said.

He also said the refinery could create about 400 jobs, as well as bring construction jobs.

Not everyone is on board with bringing the new facility to town.

Large entities are known for using large quantities of water and that was Tom Dimbleby's concern."

“How much water is this going to require, because that’s a big topic…" he said. "And, it’s not going to be a solution to the problem with our lake levels, the water releases, the water releases to the bays.”

Teresa Klein is another person concerned because of all the unknowns to the facility's environmental impact.

“Accidents do happen, we don’t have a particularly strong regulatory agency here in the state to hold these corporations accountable," Klein said.

Klein said she is also against tax code 313. She feels school districts loose out on money in those situations.

No engineer or contractor has been hired for the project, everything is in preliminary stages. However, if everything’s approved, construction could start this December. If their application is denied, Tesla said Texas would be "less attractive" and they settle on going to Louisiana. The application stated there's importance of being near the Gulf Coast Shipping Channel.

Valls said the next step is for Tesla to get a tax break from Nueces County.

This is a developing story. Check back with KRIS 6 News for updates.

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