Tuesday, October 4, 2016
TDEC Renews US Nitrogen Permit to 2020
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has renewed until Oct. 31, 2020 the permit allowing US Nitrogen to dump millions of gallons of water per day from its Midway plant into the Nolichucky River.
In a notice dated Monday the agency said the permit would become effective Nov. 1 and run to 2020. The proposed renewal was the subject of a June 9 public hearing in which dozens of Greene County and area residents expressed strong opposition. Some had urged that at the least the agency should limit the duration of the permit to a shorter time period.
Eric Ward, a TDEC spokesman, confirmed Tuesday the permit that was the subject of the public hearing was renewed.
Scott Banbury, a representative of the Sierra Club, submitted testimony following the hearing contending that it was too soon to issue a long term permit especially since the ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility was not even in full operation.
"US Nitrogen completely dominates with all requests granted to degrade the Nolichucky River and pollute Greene County's air with hazardous nitric funes," said Don Bible, a longtime opponent who attended the public hearing.
Since that June hearing the company has experienced a series of startup problems, including the Aug. 23 release of a large orange plume of nitrogen gases. Company officials have acknowledged they exceeded state pollution limits in the process.
Banbury said the state's approval showed officials ignored the issues he and others raised including the fact that US Nitrogen failed to meet the requirements under its original permit, which included the collection of monitoring data.
"It's obvious that the state of Tennessee is totally wed to this project. Whenever the company fails to meet the requirements, the state just loosens the requirements and makes it easier for them," Banbury said
The notice of approval comes just after TDEC also approved a series of amendments to US Nitrogen's permits. The changes were sought in the wake of the startup problems. Amendments to four of the company's air pollution permits were approved in a little over a month after they were requested.
US Nitrogen, citing the startup delays, had told state regulators it would be impossible to meet some of the deadlines established under the original permits.
Ward, the TDEC spokesman, said a fifth amendment sought by US Nitrogen was not granted because it was not needed. He said the company already had the authorization to take the action sought under its existing boiler permit.
The four amendments were approved on Sept. 28, Ward said.