Monday, May 1, 2017

TDEC Won't Fine US Nitrogen for Violations

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials have notified US Nitrogen that they will not impose fines on the Greene County chemical company despite a series of violations of its permits that occurred since August of last year.
In the same three-page letter Michelle Owenby, chief of the air branch of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation cited the Midway firm for being 80 days late in certifying its 2016 plan for deadling with excessive accidental emissions.
Noting that the certification was only submitted on April 2 and after TDEC had notified the company the certification was overdue, Owenby wrote that she has yet to determine whether a penalty will be imposed for the tardy filing.
The TDEC action today follows the notification late last week that TDEC denied a US Nitrogen request for an extension until the end of this year to complete performance testing on its nitric acid plant, a key element in the production of ammonium nitrate.
According to Owenby's letter the permit violations by US Nitrogen included two events in August of last year including the Aug. 23 release of a large orange plume of nitrogen dioxides.
Citing US Nitrogen's "good faith efforts shown by self disclosure" of an Aug. 3 event, Owenby added, "I have elected to  take no action regarding this violation."
She said modeling of the Aug 23 incident showed that despite the very visible cloud, the emissions did not exceed standards.
Following the Aug. 23 orange cloud incident, according to Owenby's letter, US Nitrogen promised to notify the agency in advance on future startup efforts.
As a result state officials were on hand for start-up efforts on Sept. 6, Sept. 20, Oct. 11, Jan. 17 and April 4.
"It has been determined that during the start-up events described, you promptly shutdown and/or curtailed production of excessive emissions and determined that they could not be minimized by process adjustment alone," Owenby wrote.
Stating that the public health and welfare were not jeopardized, Owenby said she would not impose any penalties for any of those incidents.
As for the late filing of the accidental emissions certification, Owenby told US Nitrogen to submit evidence that a fine would not be justified.

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