DICKSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WTVF) — A highly controversial plan for a "fuel terminal" in Dickson County received approval from county leaders during two recent meetings.
Texas-based company Titan Partners says the facility would pipe in and store fuel from the Midwest. That fuel would then be picked up by tanker trucks and distributed to gas stations across the region.
Last Thursday, the Dickson County Planning and Zoning Commission approved a settlement for two lawsuits Titan Partners brought against the county. On Tuesday, the County Commission okayed the settlements, as well. The two approvals give the company the green light to build the fuel terminal near the I-40 and I-840 junction.
"We feel betrayed," John Reuter said. For months, he has helped lead the newly founded Turnbull Preservation Group. The group of neighbors and community members have pushed back against the fuel project, citing concerns about its impact on the environment.
"The major concern that we have is that this plant, a 17-million gallon fuel storage facility, is going to sit on a hill that’s atop our watershed for this area," Reuter said. "So it’s going to effect a lot of people if there is any incident whatsoever."
Titan Partners' parent company, Buckeye Partners, has had incidents before. The company has been cited dozens of times for environmental violations, racking up $4.7 million in fines from local, state and federal agencies.
"They have 69 violations," Reuter said in a previous interview with NewsChannel 5. "If they continue to have violations like this, why should we believe that they’re going to make this place any better?"
Titan Partners, on the other hand, has defended its environmental record and said the project will bring jobs and tax money to the county.
"Protecting the air, protecting the water, protecting the environment is a top, top priority for us," company spokesperson Dave Conti said in a previous interview.
A history of reversals
County leaders have been debating the fuel terminal for months, and have reversed their position on the project several times. The County Planning and Zoning Commission initially gave the project approval in April, 2020.
However, the Turnbull Preservation Group filed a lawsuit against the county, saying they weren't given enough notice about the vote. County lawyers disagreed with the lawsuit, but said they would hold the vote again to remedy the situation. In the new vote, in July, 2020, the plan was voted down 6-4. The vote came after months of protests from neighbors, like Reuter.
"It was, it was just joy everywhere in the streets," Reuter said in July.
Shortly after the July vote, Titan Partners sent NewsChannel 5 a statement about the decision:
“Titan Partners is disappointed with the Planning Commission’s decision. However, we continue moving ahead on several key aspects of the project while we evaluate the best path forward to secure all necessary approvals. We appreciate the growing support from state and regional stakeholders – including the strong backing of the Nashville/Middle Tennessee Building and Construction Trades Council – who recognize the important economic benefits our project will create for the Dickson County community.”
In September, Titan Partners filed a lawsuit of their own against the county, arguing the Planning and Zoning Commission's initial vote was valid. The company and county leaders discussed settlement options, and, in two recent meetings, the County Planning and Zoning Commission and the County Commission both approved the settlements, reversing course again to allow the facility.
In another statement, Titan Partners said:
“Titan Partners appreciates the County Commission’s approval of this agreement and is pleased to move forward with the development of our fuel terminal, which will deliver important benefits to all of the residents of Dickson County. We’re fully committed to being a partner in Dickson County’s future, taking an active role as a good neighbor in the community and being a responsible operator that protects the environment and public safety.”
County leaders told NewsChannel 5 that because of the Planning and Zoning Commission's initial approval, their hands were tied during the two recent votes.
"It's really hard to go back to that point and undo things," County Commissioner Jeff Eby said. "If it was in the beginning, I would say we're not interested in a thing like that in our county. But we're way beyond that now."
Eby also noted that the settlement include added environmental safeguards for the facility.
"They're going to provide testing in all the creek areas," he said.
The settlement includes other benefits for the county as well, including $1 million for the building of an agricultural center and will provide additional training for the region's fire fighters. During the meetings, other commissioners worried voting down the settlement would put the fuel terminal in the hands of the court, and the county could lose those incentives and environmental protections.
Concerns about public notice
Even though county leaders voted on the project at public meetings, the fuel terminal was not on any meeting agendas. Instead, the County Planning and Zoning Commission and County Commission both voted to suspend the rules in order to discuss and vote on the settlements.
"I was sitting there in shock from what I was hearing," Reuters said. He had attended the Planning and Zoning meeting, but wasn't expecting to hear the fuel terminal brought up. "It's just a violation of our rights, we had no opportunity to speak to these issues."
"They know there would be substantial opposition to it," He added, when asked why he thought the two commissions suspended the rules to vote instead of waiting on another meeting.
"We just felt like, and the [Dickson County] mayor felt like it was good to go ahead and get in on the docket, and lets go ahead and talk about it and get it presented," Eby said. "I think just maybe, just going ahead and getting it done and just moving on from this point is the reason why."
Reuter said the Turnbull Preservation Group will be filing another lawsuit against the county regarding the lack of public notice for the two recent approval votes, hoping for another reversal.
"I love this area, I retired to this area because I like it so well, and it’s just not much else to do," he said.