The state has issued a draft of a key permit to restart a shuttered fertilizer plant on the Kenai Peninsula that once employed more than 200 people.
The draft air quality permit, which is open for public comment through early January, was published Tuesday. Zeena Siddeek, a permitting official with the Department of Environmental Conservation, said permits are typically finalized within two weeks of the close of the public comment period.
The fertilizer plant in Nikiski is owned by Agrium Inc., a public company, and was a major source of jobs and tax revenue in the area.
The plant closed in 2007 after Agrium said it couldn't obtain a sufficient supply of natural gas, which was converted into fertilizer and sold internationally.
With the resurgence of the natural gas industry in Cook Inlet, Agrium has been exploring reopening the plant. A company spokesman, Adam Diamond, stressed that Agrium was still examining whether it could obtain gas at a low enough price for a long enough period, and whether it made financial sense for the company to make the investments needed to comply with new environmental regulations and requirements.
Getting the permit, he said, "doesn't mean we're going to start the plant or not." Instead, Diamond said, it would remove an impediment if Agrium's board of directors decides to go ahead with a restart.
Diamond said he expected the company's board to make a decision at some point in 2015.
Siddeek, the state permitting official, said the permit would allow Agrium to release several types of pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and particulate matter, as well as 2 million tons of carbon emissions -- or the same amount as 165,000 homes' annual energy use.
Public comments can be submitted by fax to (907) 465-5129, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, through Jan. 2.