Friday, February 26, 2016
Judge Tosses Case on Pipeline Challenge
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A chancery court judge today dismissed a suit challenging the legality of a permit that allowed the installation of a 12 mile pipeline in Greene County built for the use of US Nitrogen.
Following a more than one hour hearing Judge Claudia Bonnyman granted a motion for dismissal filed by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Lawyers for US Nitrogen and the area industrial development board had joined in support of the dismissal motion.
Bonnyman's decision, which still could be appealed, ends, at least for now, yet another legal challenge to the 12-mile pipeline to the Nolichucky River from the US Nitrogen plant in Mosheim.
Elizabeth Murphy, attorney for local landowners who filed the suit, said she was surprised and disappointed in the ruling.
"It doesn't make any sense," Murphy said, adding that the decision appeared to ignore 40 years of established law.
Lawyers for TDOT had argued that the landowners lacked standing to bring the suit in the first place.
The plaintiffs said that the pipeline, which already is in place, trespassed on their property and, once in operation would pollute and dry out the river.
All of the plaintiffs own property abutting the river.
The suit also challenged the legal right for TDOT to grant the permit. The pipeline will be utilized by US Nitrogen but owned by the Industrial Development Board of Greeneville and Greene County. US Nitrogen has announced plans to begin operation of its $200 million facility later this year.
Murphy argued that under Tennessee law such permits can only be granted to public utilities.
The suit was one of the few remaining legal challenges to the pipeline, which will be used to pumps millions of gallons per day from the Nolichucky for use in US Nitrogen's production of ammonium nitrate.
“It is a shame to live in a state, that has deteriorated to the point that the judiciary can be intimidated by the executive branch," said Donahue Bible, one of the plaintiffs.
I am very disappointed and very sad that the judge thinks we have no standing in this case," said Ann Calfee, another plaintiff. Park Overall, a local resident opposed to the pipeline project, but not a plaintiff in the suit, said, "It is very hard to deal with a rigged system where the law only applies to money."
She said a decision will have to be made on whether to file an appeal.
Murphy indicated she will be talking with her clients about the possibility of an appeal.