By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A group of landowners who live on or near the Nolichucky River have filed a petition with the Tennessee Department of Transportation calling on the agency to revoke a permit granted for a 12-mile pipeline along the rights of way of two state highways.
The 23-page petition repeats legal challenges to the permit granted by the state agency for the pipeline being built for the new US Nitrogen plant in Greene County.
The petition was filed in response to claims by the state Attorney General that the opponents of the pipeline had failed to exhaust administrative appeals prior to filing a suit in Davidson Chancery Court.
"Currently petitioners seek an injunction enjoining the use of the unlawfully issued right-of-way permit," the petition states, adding that it wants the agency to respond within two weeks.
The filing comes in one of several legal challenges both to the pipeline and the ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility it will serve.
Earlier this week a Greene County chancery court judge turned down a series of petitions filed in another challenge to the project, but deferred action for two weeks on motions to dismiss the suit altogether.
That suit challenges the legality of actions by local officials who gave their approval to the US Nitrogen project.
In the petition filed with the state by Nashville attorney Elizabeth Murphy, the landowners repeated charges that the permit issued by the state was in violation of state law which limits the use of rights of way to utilities.
"The legislature made no provision for the public right of way to be used by any entity that does not meet the definition of a utility," according to the petition.
The petition states that construction of the pipeline has been halted because of the objections of two landowners who contend that the project will trespass on their properties.
"There is not adequate space remaining for the installation of the pipelines without encroaching on private property owned by one or more of the petitioners, specifically Don Bible and Jack Renner," the petition states.
The petition includes a picture of the roadway as it passes the Bible property, including a marking of the location of an existing telecommunication cable.
"There is about a two-foot space between the white line on the pavement and the Bible property fence," the petition notes.
Charging that TDOT exceeded its authority by issuing the permit in the first place, the landowners contend the agency should have stuck by its original decision to deny the permit.
The petition states that while the state agency does not have the legal authority to review its own decisions, the submission is being made solely because the state Attorney General "has argued for TDOT to have an opportunity for an administrative hearing.
"TDOT must respond with urgency and has been well advised this request was coming," it concludes.