Thursday, July 12, 2018

US Nitrogen Issues River Report

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A Greene County Tennessee chemical firm has disclosed that it pumped a little over 18 million gallons of water from the Nolichucky River in June, slightly less than the prior month.
The report filed with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation also showed US Nitrogen, the ammonium nitrate manufacturer, discharged 7.67 million gallons back into the river. Both totals are just slightly less than the company reported the month before.
The May totals were 19.44 million gallons were withdrawn while 7.7 million was discharged.
The company, a subsidiary of explosives manufacturer Austin Powder, gets to use the water under its TDEC permits without paying for it. The water is pumped to and from the river through 12 mile pipelines which were installed under a state permit which is the subject of an ongoing legal challenge.
According to the TDEC report the Midway company drew very little water from the river on the first three days of the month but on four days beginning June 5 the company pumped over a million gallons from the Nolichucky. Again on June 18 and June 20 more than one million gallons was drawn by the company.
The largest discharges back into the river came on seven days of the month when over a half million gallons were discharged.

Friday, June 29, 2018

US Nitrogen Cited for Permit Violation

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials have charged that US Nitrogen erected an ammonia storage and loading operation capable of emitting 23.3 million tons of ammonia per year without first obtaining a required permit.
In a three-page letter issued today a deputy director of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Protection wrote that the company itself admitted to the violation when it submitted an application to amend an existing permit.
"This application states the tanks were constructed in 2016," the letter from James P. Johnston states.
"Based on the information discussed above," the letter to US Nitrogen Plant Manager Andrew Velo states,"the Division of Air Pollution Control has determined that ammonia storage and loading operations were constructed without first receiving an air quality construction permit" as required by Tennessee regulations.
Johnston added that since the operation's potential emissions exceed the five ton per year threshhold, it does not qualify as "an insignificant activity" under state laws and regulations.
Johnston's letter gives the Midway chemical firm 20 days to respond to the charges.
"Compliance with your permit contributes to a cleaner environment and healthier citizens by maintaining the federally mandated Non Ambient Air Quality Standards for Pollutants across Tennessee," the letter concludes.

The letter also recounts the entire history of US Nitrogen's permit including the initial application on July 14, 2011. Since that time a series of amendments have been filed and approved.
The amendment triggering the citation was submitted on May 14 of this year and involved the use of a flare to vent gases.
The letter does not indicate what if any fine could be imposed or what remedial action could be ordered.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Harwells Have Ties to Consulting Firm

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

The daughter of Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell has worked as a researcher for the company that serves as an environmental consultant for the state of Tennessee and US Nitrogen, a chemical manufacturer based in Greene County.
Campaign finance records show Allie Harwell, the speaker's 25-year-old daughter, made two $4,000 contributions to her mother's gubernatorial campaign on Jan. 5 of this year. The younger Harwell gave as her address the Knoxville office of EnSafe. She listed EnSafe as her employer and "researcher" as her title.
EnSafe has served as the environmental consultant to US Nitrogen at its $220 million ammonium nitrate plant in Midway, Greene County. Records show EnSafe, acting on US Nitrogen's behalf, has had frequent contact with officials of the state Department of Environment and Conservation regarding the Midway project.
EnSafe also has served as an environmental consultant to the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Contracts between the state and EnSafe are subject to the approval of the state Building Commission.
Speaker Harwell was among those commissioners in attendance on Sept. 14, 2017 when the panel approved a $5.8 million contract with EnSafe to act as the state's environmental consultant.
The Harwells did not respond to requests for comment nor did EnSafe.
Campaign finance records show Harwell also previously received a contribution from US Nitrogen's political action committee. The US Nitrogen PAC contributed $2,500 to Harwell's campaign committee on Dec. 31, 2015.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Former US Nitrogen Exec Jailed in Iowa

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A former top executive of US Nitrogen and its parent company, Austin Powder, has been jailed in Iowa after being found in contempt by a judge presiding over his divorce case.
Officials of the Des Moines County Correctional Center confirmed today that Shawn Rana is incarcerated at the facility.
Rana was sentenced to a 90-day jail stay this week by District Judge Michael Schilling for refusing to comply with the provisions of his divorce from Leanna P. Rana.
Rana has served as a vice president of US Nitrogen and Austin Powder and has appeared at public events as a representative of the Tennessee company. He played a major role in the first efforts to win approval for the $220 million project.
US Nitrogen officials did not respond today to requests for comment on Rana's current status.
According to press accounts, Schilling ordered Rana jailed for his failure to pay thousands of dollars in child support and alimony. He issued six separate findings of contempt of court.
The judge stayed all but 30 days of the 90-day sentence.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Nearly 20 Million Gallons Drawn From River

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Nearly 20 million gallons of water were pumped from the Nolichucky River last month, according to a report filed with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Some 19.44 million gallons was pumped from the river by US Nitrogen, the company based in Greene County Tennessee. According to the report that total was reached despite the fact that on five days during the month no water was taken by the chemical manufacturer.
The monthly report shows on five other days in May the company pumped over one million gallons for its use in the production of ammonium nitrate.
Less than half the 19.4 million gallon total or 7.7 million gallons,was pumped back into the river by US Nitrogen, the report states.
The water is drawn and discharged through dual 12 mile pipelines that end at the company's Midway facility. The pipeline was built under a permit issued by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The legality of the permit is being challenged in a suit pending in the Davidson Chancery Court.
In a related development US Nitrogen notified TDEC that, due to a recent pronouncement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it is seeking to have a new and separate permit under state and federal laws .
Currently a single permit is in place for the entire Midway site, which will eventually include two other companies, Yara North American and Praxair.
Yara already has petitioned the state for a separate permit for the same reason.
The EPA recently issued a statement indicating that multiple entities operating under a single permit must be controlled by the same parties.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Yara Seeks Separate Permit

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Citing recent action by federal environmental officials, one of three companies set to operate in a Midway, Tenn. industrial complex is seeking state approval for a separate permit from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Yara North America submitted an application this week to TDEC air pollution control officials.
Yara also disclosed that the company does not expect to begin operations until next year. As a result the company is asking the state to extend its two current construction permits until Dec. 31, 2019. The existing permits expire at the end of this year.
Yara plans to produce calcium nitrate on the site also occupied by US Nitrogen.
According to the two-page letter to TDEC from Steve Rodgers and John McDowell of Yara, newly released guidelines issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency no longer allow Yara and US Nitrogen to operate under a single permit.
"As of April 30 EPA revised its interpretation of the factors it considers when determining if 'common control' exists in deciding whether multiple entities on the same site constitute a single stationary source," the letter states.
Yara is asking TDEC to reconsider the decision it reached five years ago that the two companies could operate as a single source of pollution.
"I am requesting that the division revisit the decision made in 2013 in view of EPA's revised interpretation,"the letter continues.
Noting that Yara has "no control over US Nitrogen's compliance and is not involved in decisions regarding US Nitrogen'x air permitting obligations," Yara said US Nitrogen also has no control over Yara's permit compliance.
"I believe these facts clearly indicate that Yara's and US Nitrogen's facilities at Midway are not under common control and do not constitute a single stationary source," the letter continues.
In requesting the construction permit extensions, Yara officials said that while design of their facility is progressing, construction is not expected to even begin until Dec. 3 of this year.
Yara officials did not respond to a request for comment. It was not immediately clear what effect the new EPA standards will have on Praxair, another company slated to begin operations on the Midway site.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Landowners File Amended USN Complaint

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Eastern Tennessee landowners have filed an amended complaint in their suit challenging the legality of a permit issued by the Tennessee Department of Transportation for a 12 mile dual pipeline from Greene County to the Nolichucky River.
The 21-page complaint charges that TDOT issued the permit without verifying that a right of way actually existed along state Routes 348 and 340.
The controversial pipeline is being utilized by US Nitrogen which operates an ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility in Midway.
The amended complaint was filed in Davidson Chancery Court by Elizabeth Murphy, the attorney representing the property owners. A recent ruling by Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle authorized the amendments.
The amended complaint states that TDOT was responsible for verifying the existence of the right-of-way.
Two of the plaintiffs have charged that the pipeline was actually installed on their properties.
"TDOT failed to identify such a right-of-way even after being advised of a dispute... TDOT exceeded its legal authority and also failed to require a performance bond," the revised complaint states.
In addition the complaint states that the land owners, Don Bible and Jack Renner, "are further entitled to an equitable remedy, including injunctive relief requiring the removal of any portions of the pipeline that are not within the highway right-of-way."
The suit is one of two remaining challenging the US Nitrogen project, including the pipeline.