By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Two Greene County families are petitioning the Tennessee Department of Transportation to suspend the permit that has allowed US Nitrogen to install part of a 10 mile double barreled 10-mile pipeline along their properties.
The petition comes as the Bible and Renner families have publicly charged that the pipeline is being installed on their respective properties without permission and in violation of a court order.
In the petition filed by Nashville attorney Elizabeth L. Murphy, the Renners and Bibles charge that the permit issued by TDOT violated state law and never should have been issued in the first place.
A US Nitrogen spokeswoman denied that the pipeline work and the pipeline itself infringed on private property.
"The Industrial Development Board and US Nitrogen have deployed a
registered land surveyor conducting field verifications to ensure that
construction occurs only in the TDOT-established rights-of-way or on
property owned by US Nitrogen and the IDB," company spokewoman Amanda Jennings wrote in an email response to question.
She said that the pipeline was being installed "within the boundary of all other utilities, thereby ensuring construction is contained in the state right-of-way."
The Renner and Bible petition filed with TDOT, charges that US Nitrogen has taken "a take-now, pay-later" approach that is causing "irreparable harm" to the properties.
"The Renner and Bible families took all reasonable steps to avoid this," the petition states, adding that "TDOT had no authority to issue the permits."
Affidavits from Don Bible and the Renner family were attached to the petition.
The petition parallels claims in a pending lawsuit in Davidson Chancery Court which concludes that TDOT cannot issue a right of way permit for the benefit of a private company that is not a public utility.
In a surprise development in that court case Tuesday, Chancellor Russell T. Perkins, who has been presiding over the case for more than a month, suddenly recused himself citing his friendship with the general counsel for TDOT.
Perkins' abrupt exit came before considering an emergency motion filed by Murphy that, if granted, could have brought an immediate halt to the ongoing pipeline construction.
In the motion Murphy charged that US Nitrogen was rapidly proceeding with the construction despite a court approved agreement not to trespass on private property.
"The history of events shows a contemptuousness for the court rarely displayed so publicly and intentionally," the motion states.
A hearing in a parallel Greene County suit could come later this week.
The petition filed with TDOT states that work on property owned by the Renners has been going on since March 18 despite pleas by the family that the workers with Sheriff's deputies looking on, are trespassing on private property.
The TDOT filing is just one of several ongoing legal challenges to the US Nitrogen project which will be used to bring more than a million gallons of water a day to the nearly completed Greene County US Nitrogen ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility.