By Walter F. Roche Jr.
The attorney for 47 landowners along a proposed 12 mile long Greene County pipeline says a tentative agreement has been reached with US Nitrogen regarding encroachment on their properties.
D. Scott Hurley, the property owners' lawyer, said Wednesday that under the agreement workers installing the pipeline will not encroach on private land unless they have permission in advance or have been granted a formal easement.
Hurley said the exact wording of the agreement was now being hammered out and it will then be subject to approval by Chancery Court Judge Douglas T. Jenkins.
The general agreement was reached in a court session Wednesday before Jenkins in Rogersville.
Hurley said the court hearing was sought after the landowners said they were told by US Nitrogen officials and deputy sheriffs that "their property could and would be accessed and if they resisted they would be arrested."
A spokeswoman for US Nitrogen, Amanda Jennings, said in a statement that US Nitrogen never intended to access private property without permission or an easement.
"Because the construction is in close proximity
to a busy roadway, US Nitrogen is working with the Greene County
Sheriff’s Office to ensure safety for the duration of the pipeline
construction," a statement from a US Nitrogen spokeswoman read.
"Two off-duty sheriff’s deputies will provide
routine around-the-clock monitoring of the route, equipment and
construction materials. The deputies will also help maintain a safe
working environment for the construction team while deployed in the
rights-of-way. The cost will be shouldered by US Nitrogen," she added.
"They (US Nitrogen) agreed they had no right to access private property," Hurley said, adding that company officials insisted that work on the pipeline could be accomplished by utilizing the rights-of-way of two state highways. "We believe it's impossible," he said.
The company, which is building a multimillion dollar ammonium nitrate manufacturing plant got approval to utilize the rights of way from the TN Department of Transportation. The pipeline is designed to deliver and return some 2 million gallons of water per day for use in the manufacturing process.
That state approval, however, is being challenged in separate litigation.
The agreement comes in a suit filed in Greene County Chancery Court which challenges actions taken by the Industrial Development Board of Greeneville and Greene County which will take actual ownership of the pipeline from Greeneville to the Nolichucky River.
"We believe the IDB exceeded its authority," Hurley said, adding that the plaintiffs also believe the board violated the state Open Meeting and public records laws in the process.
Those issues will be the subject of future hearings and Hurley said he is hopeful that will happen quickly because of the speed with which the company is proceeding with the pipeline installation.
"They are obviously in a hurry," Hurley said.