Friday, July 14, 2017

Pipeline Opponents Savor Victory

By Walter F. Roche Jr,

Following setback after setback, Eastern Tennessee residents who have been raising the alarm about a major chemical manufacturer locating in Greene County, got some good news this week in a long awaited Tennessee Appeals Court ruling.
The ruling reversed the decision of a Davidson Chancery Court judge who had concluded that a group of six residents could not even raise a series of legal challenges to a state permit allowing a chemical company it to draw some two million gallons of water a day from the Nolichucky River cost free.
Don Bible, who says he could only watch as contractors for US Nitrogen LLC, laid a pipeline across his property, says the appeals court ruling restored his faith, at least for the moment, in Tennessee law.
“Tuesday night after the court of appeals ruling...I went to bed with a lot more respect for Tennessee law than I have had for the last three years.”
The appeals court ruling concluded that Bible, one of the six plaintiffs, did indeed have the legal standing to challenge the permit issued by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
The same was true, the court concluded for the five other plaintiffs who filed suit challenging the TDOT permit that authorized US Nitrogen to install dual 10 mile pipelines from its Midway ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility to the Nolichucky River.
US Nitrogen officials did not respond to requests for comment on the court decision.
Under the ruling the challenge will now go back to Davidson Chancery Court where the judge will hear the case of the six residents, who all live along the Nolichucky.
"From the first everyone knew that stealing land is against the law," said Ann Harris, a longtime opponent, adding that "free water was always the goal."
Park Overall, a vocal opponent, said she was "beside myself with joy" when she learned of the ruling.
The decision comes as one local official has proposed that the county commissioners revoke the rezoning that made it possible for US Nitrogen to locate in Greene County.
County Commissioner Eddie Jennings said his resolution would effectively revoke the 2011 rezoning that enabled the ammonium nitrate manufacturer to locate in the county.
Under his resolution the US Nitrogen site would revert to agricultural zoning and the company would have one year to vacate the premises.
Jennings has acknowledged his effort will face legal challenges, but says that the resolution will at the least provide an opportunity to question US Nitrogen officials about what he says are their broken promises.

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