Monday, August 15, 2016
US Nitrogen Could Still Face Fine
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Tennessee environmental officials now say they have yet to determine whether US Nitrogen will have to pay a fine or face other penalties after admitting to a violation of air pollution requirements.
Eric Ward, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said today that he misspoke when he stated last week that the company would not be fined.
He said his agency was now conducting a review to determine if, because it self reported the violation, US Nitrogen would be exempt from any fine.
Ward said US Nitrogen has been asked to provide additional information so that TDEC can make that determination.
TDEC also released a two-page response to US Nitrogen's Aug. 3 disclosure of the violation.
"The Division of Air Pollution Control is reviewing this submission and has determined that additional information is needed to verify whether TDEC's Policy Encouraging Self-Policing and Voluntary Correction dated Nov. 17, 2011, applies," the letter states.
In the Aug. 3 letter to TDEC, US Nitrogen plant manager Andrew Velo disclosed that company officials only realized recently for the first time that state rules required the use of Selective Catalytic Reduction equipment during a start up of its Anhydrous Ammonia Production plant.
Velo said language in the state regulations made it ambiguous whether the equipment was needed during start up.
In the response to Velo, Michelle W. Owenby, technical secretary to the Tennessee Air Pollution Control Board, agreed that the language "could be interpreted to require the operation of the SCR during any and all periods of operation of the ammonia plant."
"We agree that the condition is ambiguous and should be revised to clearly articulate specific emission limitations and compliance methods relative to the operation of the ammonia plant." she wrote.
She added that in response to US Nitrogen's request, the agency was drawing up an amendment to US Nitrogen's permit "to reflect these necessary clarifications."
In the meantime she stated that US Nitrogen could operate the plant without SCR equipment as long as it limited the operation to specified limits. Once those limits are exceeded, she wrote, "the SCR must begin and remain in operation."