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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

US Nitrogen Makes Massive Filing

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen has filed a massive response to a series of questions raised by Tennessee regulators as part of the Greene County chemical firm's application to renew a key permit.
The filing earlier this month includes a 15-page letter from US Nitrogen Plant Manager Andrew Velo plus a series of attachments pushing the total filing to 195-pages.
The filing represents the second response by the chemical firm to a critical initial response to the permit renewal application. The first response was laced with criticism of the TDEC filing and disputed TDEC's findings on several counts.
In the latest response. US Nitrogen gave a point-by-point response to the TDEC questions and included much of the data the state had been seeking.
"There are no uncontrolled routine emissions from the ammonia storage and loading operations," Velo wrote in response to one TDEC question.
The company, a subsidiary of explosives manufacturer Austin Powder, said it had some answers to the regulators questions, but would need further research to answer others.
Responding to one question Velo acknowledged that the company had been unable to find documentation of data that was used in 2013.
In response to another question, Velo wrote that the company did not intend to exceed the production of 376 tons of 100 per cent nitric acid per day although the plant technically could produce up to 600 tons a day.
"In the future US Nitrogen can foresee operating at a rate of up to 600 tons per day of 100 per cent nitric acid," Velo wrote.
Other questions addressed include the output of aa steam generating boiler and the volume of ammonia to be produced on two ammonia trains.
The company also disclosed in a separate filing that it has once again appointed a new environmental manager.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

TDEC Easing US Nitrogen Regulations

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Citing improvements by US Nitrogen, state officials say they no longer need to have inspectors present during startup operations of a Greene County plant producing nitric acid.
In a two-page letter to Andrew Velo, US Nitrogen's plant manager, an official of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation also stated that her agency intends to permanently ease the standards for opacity during startups as they apply to UD Nitrogen.
"As detailed below your company has improved the start up process to the point that we no longer feel it is necessary to witness each and every start up at the nitric acid plant," Michelle Owenby of TDEC wrote in the letter to Velo.
The nitric acid plant is but one of several operations at the Midway plant where ammonium nitrate is produced for use in making explosives at a separate location.
Stating that the number of failed start up attempts has decreased, the TDEC technical secretary, added that the visible emissions have decreased.
Nonetheless, despite still failing to meet the existing standard, Owenby said TDEC "plans no further action."
In addition she wrote that the agency had concluded that the existing standards are not suitable and the emissions and opacity recorded at US Nitrogen has "no known health effects."
In the meantime, the TDEC official continued, the state agency will begin work on developing a "source specific state implementation plan revision to allow additional opacity for limited times with the provision that US Nitrogen continues to monitor nitrogen oxides and ammonia emissions.
She wrote that continued operation will be permitted provided US Nitrogen continues to monitor the emissions of those two pollutants and ensures that standards are not exceeded.
She said that once the new standards are determined the state will include them in US Nitrogen's existing permit. She said the new standards would be announced publicly and public comment will be solicited. The amendments will also be subject to review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Judge OKs Amendments to Complaint

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Opponents of a controversial state permit for a chemical company won a partial victory Friday as a Davidson Chancery Court judge ruled that the six eastern Tennessee plaintiffs can file a series of amendments to their pending complaint against the state Department of Transportation.
Judge Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled that the group can add the allegation that TDOT is responsible for determining the location and width of a proposed right-of-way before granting an easement for that right-of-way.
At issue in the case is a permit TDOT granted for US Nitrogen to install a 12-mile dual pipeline from Midway to the Nolichucky River. The plaintiffs contend the permit never should have been granted and that the pipeline has now been installed, at least in part, over private property.
The judge also granted the plaintiffs the right to amend their complaint to include the allegation that TDOT did not follow its own rules in granting the permit.
The judge turned down the request to add any other additional charges to the complaint.
The judge deferred action on another plaintiff request seeking to force US Nitrogen to provide detailed information on how they determined the location of the rights of way along two state roads.
The six plaintiffs include two landowners who contend the pipeline encroached on their property. The Davidson judge indicated her final decision in the case will hinge on the outcome of a parallel case in Greene County courts.
Under the disputed permit US Nitrogen has been pumping millions of gallons of water from the Nolichucky for use in the production of liquid ammonium nitrate.