Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chancery Judge Won't Halt Pipeline Construction

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Residents seeking an immediate halt to the construction of a 12-mile pipeline from Mosheim to the Nolichucky River were turned back Thursday during a lengthy hearing before a Greene County judge.
Chancellor Douglas Jenkins ruled that the citizens group did not provide sufficient evidence that the continuation of construction on the US Nitrogen pipeline would cause irreparable harm.
Ruling from the bench after a lengthy hearing in Greeneville, Jenkins denied the motion for a temporary injunction.
The ruling came in a suit filed by area residents who oppose the more than $200 million project. US Nitrogen, a subsidiary of Ohio explosives manufacturer Austin Powder, plans to open an ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility this Spring.
Jenkins also rejected claims that the development board lacked the legal authority to enter into the agreement with US Nitrogen.
But Jenkins stopped short of dismissing the suit altogether and the litigation will continue albeit on narrower grounds.
He ruled that the plaintiffs can go forward with their claim that the Industrial Development Board of Greeneville and Greene County violated the state Open Meeting Law during the July 18 session at which the pipeline plan was approved.
If they succeed, the agreement between the IDB and US Nitrogen could be nullified.
"It's a big win in that we can now take depositions of those involved. We want to prove that this violation was intentional," said April Bryant, one of the plaintiffs.
The suit charges that the law was violated because citizens attending the meeting could not hear the discussion prior to the favorable vote. In fact one resident, Eddie Overholt, was arrested when he complained about the muffled discussion.
Charges against Overholt were later dropped.
Bryant said the judge also agreed to move forward quickly with the suit and schedule an expedited trial date.
US Nitrogen has stated that the pipeline will be completed this spring along with the manufacturing facility that will produce ammonium nitrate. Water piped from the Nolichucky will be used in the manufacturing process.
In a statement released after the court hearing, Justin Freeark, plant manager for US Nitrogen, stated that work on the pipeline will continue.
"US Nitrogen remains committed to the pipeline project, and our contractors will continue construction, which began last October," he said.

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