Gas plant suspension ordered

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A Dayton gas plant where a June 30, 2000, explosion blew a hole through a roof will not resume production of nitrogen triflouride until at least Sept. 30, the Lyon County Commission ordered Thursday.

Speaking to a vocal crowd of approximately 85, mostly anti-gas plant advocates, the five-person commission agreed the special use permit should be suspended until a review of the plant determines potential future volatility.

The motion that passed only specifies production of nitrogen triflouride. The explosion, which resulted in no injuries, was traced to a tank where the compound is stored.

Although the company halted production after the accident, the suspension does not address production of other types of gases produced by the company. ASG president Michael Koonce indicated the company would like to resume production of other "inert" gases.

The decision allows the company to bottle and ship nitrogen triflouride that has been sitting in a holding tank since before the accident.

Judith Dragon, a teacher at neighboring Sutro Elementary School, believes the plant should be ordered to move out of an area in Dayton that is so close to school children and family residences.

"Mr. Koonce seems to be under the impression that if their motion passes, he will get to start manufacturing his poisonous gas," she said. "(The plant) shouldn't have been there in the first place - it should be in Area 51."

County officials expect Secor International, an independent consulting firm, to complete testing around the time that the suspension expires. Commissioners set a date of Sept. 27 for a hearing to determine - provided an examination is complete - whether the permit to operate will be completely revoked.

Company officials and their attorney did not object to the Sept. 30 date, but cautioned that an intermittent closure of the plant is placing an economic burden on its owners.

"I've been shut down for a year," Koonce said. "You're asking me to shut down for another two months; I'm willing to do that."

"Suspension is virtually revocation for people in business," said ASG attorney George Allison.

Dayton resident and company employee Carol Schweizer was among those who spoke in favor of the company. Schweizer works as an administrative assistant and is trained in dealing with hazardous materials, she said.

"I wish they would deal with facts instead of mass hysteria," she said. "It is safe, or I wouldn't be there, and my son wouldn't be in that school."

Meanwhile, with recent completion of repairs to the processing equipment, ASG expects within days that the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection will give it permission to reinstate production.


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