Friday, May 29, 2015

Trespass Suit Filed On USN Pipeline

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Four Greene County residents have filed suit charging that a controversial 12-mile pipeline was illegally installed on their property and they are seeking up to $2.5 million in damages.
The six-page suit filed today in Greene County Circuit Court names as defendants US Nitrogen and the Industrial Development Board of Greeneville and Greene County.
The complaint seeks up to $500,000 in regular damages and up to $2 million in punitive damages.
"Despite repeated warnings the defendants and their agents entered upon the private property of the plaintiffs without permission, consent or any right to do so," the suit states.
It charges that not only were parts of the pipeline placed on private property, but the defendants unlawfully appropriated truckloads of dirt and soil belonging to the plaintiffs.
Those filing the suit are Donahue Bible, Jack and Margaret Renner and Donna Snowden.
The suit is but the latest in a series of legal challenges to the pipeline which will be used to supply water to US Nitrogen's $200 million ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility.
Plans call for more than a million gallons of water per day to be pumped from the Nolichucky River to the US Nitrogen plant.
One legal challenge to the plant and pipeline was  rebuffed last week in a ruling by Greene County Chancellor Douglas Jenkins. Another challenge is pending in Davidson County Chancery Court.
Officials of US Nitrogen have insisted that the pipeline was being properly placed on the rights-of-way for Routes 340 and 348.
The new suit charges that US Nitrogen and the IDB engaged in "outrageous conduct" and were intentionally reckless thus justifying an award for punitive damages.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

US Nitrogen Declines to Identify Employers in Drug Arrests

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Officials of US Nitrogen will not disclose the companies that employed three workers on the company's $200 million Greene County project who were arrested last week on drug charges.
Responding Tuesday to questions about the arrests, US Nitrogen spokeswoman Amanda Jennings would only say that the three were not directly employed by US Nitrogen.
"The individuals in question were employed by independent contractors working on the US Nitrogen site," she wrote in an email.
Records show that two of the three arrested had prior arrests and one of those, Howie C. Carver, 44, from South Carolina, had an extensive record including multiple drug convictions.
Also arrested were Michael C. Hayes, 21, of Bybee and Shane P. Andrews, 31, from Alabama. Andrews had prior arrests in Alabama.
Carver was charged with one count of possession of marijuana and Hayes was charged with two counts of simple possession. They were both arrested Tuesday.
Andrews was arrested Thursday following a traffic accident and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.
Jennings issued a brief statement on US Nitrogen's drug policy when asked about the arrests.
"US Nitrogen follows the State of Tennessee’s Drug-Free Workplace program for its employees and requires that all independently contracted companies at its worksite have a robust drug screening policy in place," she wrote in an email.
"US Nitrogen requires contracting companies to screen every employee before US Nitrogen will issue employee credentials to its construction site. Each independent contractor company is required to administer and monitor a drug-screening program for new employees upon hire and for current employees at random intervals," she continued. 
Asked whether US Nitrogen took any action against the employers of the three, Jennings did not directly respond.
"I can only confirm that they are independent contractors and not employed by US Nitrogen," she wrote. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

US Nitrogen Suit Tossed in Greene County

Greene County Chancellor Douglas Jenkins has thrown out the remaining claims in a suit brought by local residents opposed to the US Nitrogen project on Pottertown Road.
Jenkins, who already had dismissed many of the claims in the original suit, announced the decision in a Friday court session.
The suit against the county and various boards and agencies challenged the legality of favorable actions for the project by county commissioners.
Jenkins, however, dismissed the claims, including charges that the state open meeting law was violated in the approval process.
Jenkin's order of summary judgment can be challenged in an appeal, but plaintiffs could not be reached for comment on that possibility.
A second suit challenging the project and approvals given by the Tennessee Department of Transportation is still pending in Davidson Chancery Court.
A motion for dismissal in that case is pending.
The court action comes as US Nitrogen announced plans this week to begin testing of the $220 million ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility, including a double barreled 12 mile pipeline from the plant to the Nolichucky River.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Link to US Nitrogen Start-Up Flier

US Nitrogen to Begin Startup Process

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen officials announced today that with construction of its manufacturing facility nearly complete, it will begin the process of putting the plant online.
In a statement issued today, US Nitrogen plant manager Justin Freeark said the start-up and testing will take place over the summer and fall with actual production being phased in.
The facility will produce ammonium nitrate which will be shipped to other facilities for the manufacture of explosives.
The start-up comes as the company continues to face legal challenges in courts in Davidson and Greene Counties.
“Testing and startup processes for our facility will take place over several months, because we are taking every safety precaution with each phase. Additionally, comprehensive training has been completed,” Freeark said.
As part of that process, Freeark said, the company will begin utilizing a double pipeline from the plant to the Nolichucky River.
Freeark acknowledged that the testing and start-up processes will be at times noisy.
“We are committed to keeping the public up-to-date on the progress of our facility’s operation,” Freeark said. “As part of that commitment, we want to make residents aware of some noise and sights they might experience as part of the routine start-up processes and essential safety procedures,” he added.
He said the company has issued fact sheets to residents within a two-mile radius of the Pottertown Road facility.
Among the expected noises are "air blows" which will be used to remove dust and debris accumulated during the construction process. Freeark also said clouds of steam  will be visible during the start-up.
Flare systems also will be tested and visible flairs are likely on the facilities stacks.

Friday, May 15, 2015

US Nitrogen Awards Scholarships

US Nitrogen sponsored two $1,000 scholarships each for two high school seniors at West Greene High School, according to company spokeswoman Amanda Jennings.  Winners were Erica Reynolds and Devan Johnson. Reynolds is valedictorian and participates in multiple sports. She hopes to become a pharmacist.  Johnson is a volunteer at Takoma Regional Hospital and his church. He hopes to become a medical transport pilot.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

US Nitrogen Sells Douthat Property for $300,000 Loss

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen, which has purchased hundreds of acres of Greene County property, has sold, at a substantial loss, a 78.7 acre parcel it purchased from a local official's company just five months ago.
State and county land records show US Nitrogen sold the property along Fish Hatchery Road to Chandley Farms, LLC for $550,000 on March 24. The company had purchased the property from Douthat Properties, LLC for $851,251.38 on Oct. 24 of last year.
The property is valued at $495,400, according to Greene County assessment records.The recent sales price is 35 percent below the amount US Nitrogen paid for the same property late last year.
Signing the October  deed for Douthat Properties was J.W. Douthat, who has served on the Industrial Development Board of Greeneville and Greene County and the Old Knox Utility District.
Douthat records show cast a favorable vote for the US Nitrogen project while serving on the IDB last July. He had recused himself during an earlier vote by the same body.
Officials of US Nitrogen did not respond to questions about why the company would purchase land it apparently didn't need and then sell it so quickly at a loss.
The 78.7 acre parcel was one of two land deals between Douthat and US Nitrogen, which is completing construction of a more than $200 million ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility in the county.
Douthat Properties sold a 13.67 acre property to US Nitrogen for $148,740 on Oct. 9 of last year.
US Nitrogen also purchased property from J & J Warehousing, a firm headed by Jerry Fortner. The 3.58 acre parcel was sold Dec. 11 for $75,000.
Fortner, also an IDB member, heads C & C Millwright, the leader contractor on the US Nitrogen construction project. Fortner did abstain from voting on US Nitrogen issues before the IDB.
While US Nitrogen has sold some of the parcels it purchased to the IDB for a nominal sum, the sale to Chandley Farms is the first to a private entity.
Records show US Nitrogen also recently purchased two additional county parcels for $11,250 each. The sellers were Martha Jennings and members of the Gregg family.
US Nitrogen is facing several lawsuits seeking to block some or all of its development proposal but thus far courts in Greene and Davidson County have looked unfavorably on those challenges.
In a recent decision Greene County Chancery Judge Douglas T. Jenkins concluded that the Greene County Regional Planning Commission and the Greene County Commission did not exceed their legal authority in approving aspects of the US Nitrogen project. He also dismissed claims against the Greene County Partnership.