Koch firm to pay $380K fine

Koch Nitrogen Co. LLC will pay a $380,000 penalty to resolve federal complaints that it failed to have proper risk management plans at its plant in Webster County and two other Midwestern facilities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported Wednesday.

”This entire enforcement action revolves around the fact they had not developed a proper risk management plan,” EPA spokesman Ben Washburn said. ”It’s not about any release or spill.”

The EPA reported that its inspectors found violations at the anhydrous ammonia plant east of Fort Dodge, a similar facility in Dodge City, Kan., and a pipeline terminal in Marshalltown.

”Koch Nitrogen worked cooperatively with the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to fully resolve these issues,” said Paul Baltzer, a company spokesman, ”We believe the dialogue has been constructive and that both sides benefited and learned from the discussions. The resulting settlement reflects the strong protections we provide in our facility risk management programs.”

According to the EPA, its inspectors found these violations in 2007 and 2009:

  • Failure to fully implement the prevention program requirements.
  • Failure to adequately coordinate with local emergency responders.
  • Failure to include all required information in the risk management plan.

An EPA statement issued Wednesday does not specify which violations were found at each of the three facilities.

The $380,000 payment is a civil penalty, according to the EPA statement.

Although the company is accused of failing to adequately coordinate with emergency responders, it has been cooperative with local units, according to Tony Jorgensen, the Webster County emergency management coordinator. Jorgensen said the company permitted a full-scale training exercise that included multiple fire departments, the sheriff’s department and the county health department to be held at the plant a couple years ago. He added that he has a copy of the plant’s emergency action plan.

”They have trained and worked with our local first responders,” he said. ”I do know that they have worked with the local emergency planning commission, which is the policy arm of the hazmat team.”

The local plant is on Webster County Road D20 between Fort Dodge and Duncombe. It opened in 1964; Koch Nitrogen Co. bought it in 2003.

At the plant, natural gas and air are combined to produce anhydrous ammonia. Most of that anhydrous ammonia is further refined to produce UAN Solution, a fertilizer which is 32 percent nitrogen.

The plant can make 1,000 tons of anhydrous ammonia and 1,800 tons of UAN Solution every day.

A $10 million control center is being built there. The company has invested about $60 million in the site over the last three years.