Thursday, February 25, 2016

Affidavit Disputes Draft Permit Claims

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A sworn affidavit cited in pending litigation contradicts assertions in a draft permit issued for the controversial 12-mile Greene County pipeline recently issued for comment by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
The affidavit by Butch Shaw, the former chairman of the Old Knox Utility District, states that the utility district had told officials of US Nitrogen that they could easily supply the firm with the water needed for the operation of its $200 million ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility.
Stating that he was "directly involved" in the negotiations with US Nitrogen, Shaw swore that claims that the district could not supply the needed water were false.
"That is not accurate" Shaw wrote in the affidavit. "As the Old Knox system existed when negotiations began with US Nitrogen, the utility system would have required an upgrade. With the upgrade, the volume was available."
Shaw's statement stands in contrast to the draft permit recently issued for the pipeline by TDEC.
"The permittee chose not to connect to a public water supply for its industrial process water for several reasons, the main one being lack of guaranteed uninterrupted water supply," the draft states.
According to a motion filed this week in Nashville, Shaw's affidavit was filed as an attachment to a motion for summary judgment filed earlier in a suit pending in Chancery Court in Davidson County by landowners opposed to the pipeline. The pipeline has already has been installed but has yet to be put into full operation.
The landowners have charged that the Tennessee Department of Transportation exceeded its legal authority when it issued a permit allowing the pipeline to be placed within the rights-of-way of two state highways.
In his affidavit, Shaw, who resigned from the district board last year, said that as the board's representative he was personally involved with the hiring of an an engineering firm to study the upgrade and getting approval from the a federal agency for a loan to cover the $3.2 million estimated cost.
Shaw stated that because of its location, the utility district would have been the designated supplier of water for US Nitrogen. The district, in turn, would purchase the water from the Greeneville Utility District.
"In anticipation of selling more water to us, for US Nitrogen, Greeneville Utility spent money to upgrade their pumps to handle the added volume that USN was going to buy. I was involved in those discussions as well," Shaw continued.
He added, " As the liaison for the board with USN, I was actively negotiating with US Nitrogen in July of 2014 for a water rate of $2.31 per thousand gallons, or a flat rate of $15,000 per month per the Board’s directive."
He said that after being told by a US Nitrogen representative that they had a deal, he learned during a conference call that the deal was off. Still later he learned from a newspaper article that US Nitrogen planned to draw water directly from the Nolichucky.
US Nitrogen officials did not respond to a request for comment.
"Greeneville( Old Knox's supplier) could have supplied enough water to USN, and still can. The Greeneville Utility is permitted for 16 million gallons a day of capacity, and they are only using about 7.9 million," the affidavit concludes.
The draft permit recently made public by TDEC would allow US Nitrogen to draw millions of gallons of water per day from the Nolichucky. Several local residents already have formally requested that a public hearing be held on the permit.

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