Jump to main content.

Project XL Logo

PCS Nitrogen, L.P.




May 28, 1997

Morning Session

Welcome and Introductions

Gerald Fontenot (EPA Region 6) provided an overview of U.S. EPA's Project XL activities in general and Region 6's efforts in particular. He noted that an early element of EPA's reorganization in the last two years was the announcement of Project XL. David Bond initially organized XL activities in Region 6, and he is now joined by Adele Cardenas, Gary Smith, and Ragan Tate. These additional staff represent Region 6's commitment to be as responsive as possible to XL participants. Mr. Fontenot emphasized that participants need to have their issues and questions "squarely on the table" early in the process. National regulatory interests complicate the situation, because Region 6's actions have implications for other EPA Regions. However, this is similar to the situation faced by large, multi-facility companies like PCS Nitrogen. Mr. Fontenot emphasized that EPA initiated Project XL to look for ways to achieve superior environmental performance (SEP). Region 6's role is to act as a catalyst with the company to achieve SEP. One advantage of the fact that Project XL is still in its development stage is that early participants have the opportunity to express their ideas first. He said the disadvantage is that EPA is still addressing process issues with Project XL. He said that the Region understands the importance to XL participants of using dedicated resources efficiently to make progress on XL projects.

Discussion of Background Materials

Ms. Cardenas introduced the materials provided to all attendees at the meeting. She said that this information is available on the Project XL internet website, as well as on Region 6's division website. One side of the folder distributed to participants included new information from Region 6, such as regional goals and objectives. She said that meeting participants would have the opportunity to review and comment on meeting minutes from this meeting in the next two weeks, and that the finalized minutes will be provided on the Project XL website.

Mr. Randy Ferarra (PCS Nitrogen) observed that State of Louisiana as well as Federal regulations may need to be considered in the course of this project. He noted that the State recently passed legislation to provide regulatory flexibility for environmentally beneficial projects. Nina Bonnelycke (EPA Headquarters, participating by telephone) said this emphasizes the importance of having state participants on the project team. Ms. Cardenas agreed that one function of this meeting was "to get the right people at the table and move forward."

Ms. Cardenas emphasized that the Final Project Agreement (FPA) is the document driving activities under the XL project, and therefore all project participants and stakeholders need to agree on its contents. Ahmad Hujabre (PCS Nitrogen) asked that else was needed for the FPA based on the information already submitted to EPA to date. Ms. Cardenas answered that the FPA will include further details from today and future meetings and input from stakeholders. She noted that Region 6 is currently working on developing boiler plate FPA language, and will hand this out at the project kickoff meeting. The kickoff meeting is the initial meeting after a project has been selected for XL, and it includes all partners to the process. Mr. Ferarra asked who has the authority to revise and approve the FPA. ms. Cardenas said that this is a joint process between the state, public stakeholders, and the company. She stated that the ground rules for this process will be discussed and established at the kickoff meeting. Ground rules are project-specific, and play a large part in how a project progresses. Ms. Cardenas stated that the contractor will provide examples of ground rules that have been used in the past at the kickoff meeting. Ms. Bonnelycke noted that although developing the FPA is a cooperative effort with EPA and stakeholder involvement, the company takes the lead in brokering the agreement.

Ms. Cardenas strongly encouraged PCS Nitrogen to bring up any additional ideas it has regarding pollution prevention to tie in to the proposed project. She noted that Project XL represents an opportunity to revisit old (and develop new) pollution prevention avenues.

Next, Ms. Cardenas briefly summarized the status of XL projects nationwide. Three projects have signed FPAs (Weyerhaeuser, Intel, and Berry), and Merck has just closed its public notice for its site-specific rule. The meeting packet distributed to participants included summaries of these projects, and this information is also on the website. The administrative records collected for these projects are also on the internet. Ms. Cardenas encouraged PCS Nitrogen to view these records to see the scope of what will be needed for their project. For example, any formal letters between project members are included in these records, as well as the FPAs for these projects. Ms. Cardenas observed that FPAs tend to be very different across projects. Mr. Smith stated that there is considerable room to tailor FPAs to specific projects. Mr. Ferarra asked if there was a set protocol for FPA development. Mr. Smith answered that a list of categories is available that can be used as a framework. Mr. Smith emphasized that FPAs are not contracts, but rather represent terms by which parties agree to work together on project. If the agreement terms are not met, participating members can disengage from the agreement. The first version of an FPA is usually drafted by the facility, in close contact with interested State or regional participants.

Hall Bohlinger (LA DEQ) asked if EPA still planned to limit Project XL to 50 projects nationwide, and if there was a set project duration. Ms. Bonnelycke answered that the timeline for each project varies, and is established in the FPA. Ms. Cardenas provided the example of Union Carbide, whose project is being negotiated for five years with an option to renew, provided the facility can still demonstrate SEP. Ms. Cardenas noted that the normal course of an XL project includes: agreeing on initial FPA language; notifying the public that a draft FPA is available for public comment; and then finalizing the FPA. FPA signatories vary from one project to another.

Donald Trahan (LA DEQ) asked whether a site-specific rule necessarily follows signing of an FPA to legalize the agreement. Ms. Bonnelycke answered that site-specific rules are not always needed as part of a project. However, if a site-specific rule is planned, then it will be developed simultaneously with the FPA. Ms. Cardenas pointed out that Louisiana does not have the authority to make site-specific rules for facilities. Ms. Cardenas suggested that, because PCS Nitrogen is subject to Title V, one enforcement option for EPA would be to build the project into the facility's Title V permit.

PCS Nitrogen Proposal

Mr. Ferarra said that PCS Nitrogen's proposal is relatively simple, and involves the biological processing of phosphogypsum from stacks to develop an agriculturally beneficial compost product. The compost benefit derives from calcium and humus added during processing. Other soil micronutrients are also components of the mixture. One of primary agricultural benefits of this product, in addition to the nutrients it provides, is its ability to retain water and reduce soil runoff. An advantage of this product to PCS Nitrogen would be a reduction in contributions to the company's stockpiles of phosphogypsum wastes. These waste stacks require costly maintenance and produce no benefits.

Darrell Evers (PCS Nitrogen) noted that the genesis of this proposal occurred several years ago, when he was tasked with identifying additional areas for stacking waste phosphogypsum. Currently, PCS Nitrogen maintains over 250 acres of phosphogypsum stacks, and was anticipating at that time building another 116-acre area. Building this additional site has been postponed while alternatives like this project are being considered. By not building the expansion site, the company has already avoided extra water discharges over the past three years. If the proposal is fully implemented, at a minimum, it will prevent the building of the new stack area.

Dave Basu (D&S LLP) stated that numerous studies have been conducted on the use of compost and phosphogypsum, and that EPA has on file the laboratory study conducted on Orgo Plus, the product proposed for this project. He said this product is a superior fortified organic soil enhancer. D&S LLP has already received patent approval from the Library of Congress for this product. Mr. Basu said that he is concerned that the planting season is already lost this year, because the product needs to be applied in January or February, and that he is eager to receive approval from EPA to begin production.

Ms. Bonnelycke asked if any changes had been made to the proposal since it was originally submitted to EPA. Mr. Basu answered that there have been no changes. Ms. Bonnelycke asked for clarification regarding the original estimate of serving 5,000 farmers in the first year, which seemed high to EPA. Mr. Evers answered that the definition used for the "first year" is important, and that the estimate Ms. Bonnelycke referred to represents the first year of full implementation of the project, not the pilot phase. Mr. Evers said that if EPA needs more specific dates that is not a problem, but he thought this step would be part of the FPA. Mr. Basu added that predicting total production tons is very difficult at this point.

Ms. Bonnelycke asked how much play was built into the original production estimate. Mr. Evers said that full production will take several years, but the company does not want to wait that long to test market the product. Mr. Ferarra said he would like to verify that the FPA will give them the necessary flexibility to implement this project. Ms. Bonnelycke answered that by the time the draft FPA is developed, the company should already have fleshed out the conditions it agrees to for moving the project forward. Ms. Bonnelycke said this will need to be discussed in the kickoff meeting, but that she would expect the FPA to outline whatever research is needed to complete a risk assessment and to analyze the radiation impacts of the project.

Preliminary EPA Review of PCS Nitrogen Proposal

Ms. Bonnelycke summarized the EPA review team's preliminary review of the PCS Nitrogen proposal. She stressed that EPA provided this feedback so that PCS Nitrogen will have a sense of the directions of possible EPA and stakeholder objections and issues. She emphasized that phosphogypsum is accumulating at such a rate in the U.S. that there is a unanimous feeling at EPA that the PCS Nitrogen proposal must be considered seriously. She said that she hopes PCS Nitrogen will have a positive experience with the XL process to convey to the rest of the phosphoric acid industry. She said that the EPA review group agreed that extensive data on phosphogypsum applications are available, but that data on phosphogypsum compost usage rates are inadequate. Ms. Bonnelycke noted that the application rate for phosphogypsum compost might be the same as recommended for conventional phosphogypsum. This would be true if the assumption holds that even though net calcium and nutrients are lower, the bulking attributes of the compost phosphogypsum would make a single application comparable to a single application of regular phosphogypsum. However, the EPA review team raised the concern that farmers may apply more compost phosphogypsum than recommended because of the added value of the nutrient component.

Ms. Bonnelycke stated that the reduction in phosphoric acid wastewater production anticipated with full implementation of this proposal is not the primary appeal of the project for EPA. Even though this reduction may be as high as 14 million pounds, this is a very small amount compared to the flow of the Mississippi River. Although the individual facility implementing this project might be able to show reductions in its toxic wastewater production, this would not necessarily represent a reduction in eutrophication of the river system as a whole. Michael Patterson (PCS Nitrogen) interjected that some stakeholder groups may be enthusiastic about this level of phosphoric acid reduction. However, in a pilot project with low inputs and outputs, Mr. Patterson agreed that measuring the environmental benefit to the Mississippi River of reduced TRI chemicals in the facility's wastewater effluent would not be possible. Ms. Bonnelycke said that the company needs to keep in mind that it may encounter a local stakeholder group that does not care about what is being emitted to the Mississippi River, but feels strongly about what is applied to land nearby their homes. Hank May (EPA Region 6) said he said a parallel in this discussion with limiting dosages under CAA, i.e., the radionuclide NESHAPs prohibit adding more than a small increment of dose compared to the average dose from natural background.

Ms. Bonnelycke stated that the EPA review team's impression was that the direct transfer of the manufacture of this specific product would likely be limited. However, this project might act as a spur to other manufacturers to look into their own alternatives. Ms. Bonnelycke said that EPA is interested in being educated about whether the company's change from Arcadian to PCS Nitrogen has resulted in new perspectives on this project. Mr. Ferarra agreed that the corporate change has the possibility for triggering more applications of the project, because the company now has nitrate as well as phosphate production facilities. He explained that already the Aurora PCS facility in North Carolina is doing mine reclamation work with phosphogypsum, and the White Springs, Florida facility is shipping their phosphogypsum to peanut farmers. Ms. Bonnelycke noted that part of the XL process is learning about other companies that may be interested in XL proposals. She said it is important for EPA to be aware of potential interest in the PCS Nitrogen proposal, because this will impact the overall risk of the project.

Susan Basu (D&S LLP) said that her company is very interested in seeing this technology transferred, especially in the south. Ms. Bonnelycke noted that their product may have limited use in Florida, since this region already has phosphogypsum with a lower radioactive-concentration available. Mr. Evers added that the compost part of this project will broaden the market for use of compost overall. He said that this product can be modified to meet farmers' needs, and provides the significant benefits of reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and preventing nitrogen from evaporating or being washed away. Ms. Bonnelycke said EPA was not denying these potential benefits, but that EPA would prefer more research into the magnitude of these benefits.

Mr. Basu said that addressing non-point pollution is an important issue, and that their product solves multiple problems in this area. Ms. Bonnelycke answered that the EPA review team's perspective was that this benefit is not especially significant. In part, this is due to the fact that there already exists a national trend to convert organic wastes into composts, and this project is not the only project proposing this kind of use of organic wastes. Ms. Bonnelycke said that the EPA review team did consider the benefit of reducing the overall accumulation of organic wastes, but EPA's concern is that this project offers little in the classic pollution prevention sense (e.g., reducing the amount of phosphogypsum production). Mr. Bonnelycke noted that this idea goes back to Ms. Cardenas' point about making an effort to bring in any pollution prevention ideas to this project to make this project more acceptable. The argument could even be raised that EPA is creating a reverse incentive to reduce waste; PCS Nitrogen needs to be prepared to counter this objection. Mr. Patterson said that this material should never have been classified as a waste to begin with, but Ms. Bonnelycke answered that this is a moot point. Mr. Hujabre said that, regarding source reduction, the company's options are limited since phosphate rock is one of their raw materials. Ms. Bonnelycke answered that regardless, PCS Nitrogen has the option to make this project much more appealing if any source reduction ideas can be implemented either as part of this project or another project at the facility. Mr. Patterson thanked EPA for presenting different viewpoints on their proposal.

The EPA review team brought up two points regarding the PCS Nitrogen proposal and stakeholders: (1) the proposed facility is located in a densely industrialized area, and outside interest in this project will therefore be very high; and (2) a neutral facilitator is recommended to ensure that even extreme viewpoints are heard during the FPA development process. Ms. Basu said she feels this is a matter of education and good public relations. Ms. Bonnelycke said that, as the company selects stakeholder groups to work with, it needs to remember that there are different perspectives on this project (e.g., some stakeholders will feel this is a great agricultural commodity, others will be afraid of any increase in radiation, and still others might be interested in the phosphoric acid reductions to the Mississippi River). She reminded the group that the recent Project XL Federal Register notice, included in the handouts and available on the internet, reviews EPA's expectations regarding stakeholder development.

Mr. Ferarra asked if the EPA review team's comments were available in writing. Ms. Bonnelycke said yes, and that she would provide these comments to PCS Nitrogen after they are approved by EPA management. Mr. Smith asked if these comments were necessarily EPA's concerns or represented EPA's expectations of stakeholder concerns. Ms. Bonnelycke answered that both of these sides will be presented separately in the write-up.

Discussion of Next Steps and Further Analysis

Ms. Bonnelycke reviewed next steps for PCS Nitrogen's proposal. She said EPA was neutral regarding the issue of stack reductions, since this benefit would not be realized until possibly years later during the advanced commercialization stage. She said that EPA was positive about the appeal of the phosphoric acid reductions, but only under the condition that the company will be able to demonstrate that the radiation risk from application of this product will be contained within EPA's limits of acceptable risk. To demonstrate this, the review team felt that the company needs to conduct a two-phased approach. A pilot study broken into two phases is recommended for this project and will be discussed in more detail during project development.

Mr. Ferarra asked if there is a standard EPA protocol for risk assessment. Julie Rosenberg and Byron Bunger (EPA HQ , Office of Air and Radiation, both participating by telephone) said they would work with the company on this risk assessment. Ms. Bonnelycke answered that the research parameters and the criteria for moving the project forward would be specified in the FPA. Mr. Bunger clarified that the company would not need to produce its own new risk assessment, because EPA has already analyzed the baseline risk from land applications of phosphogypsum. He stated that an acceptable risk results from applying conventional phosphogypsum with a concentration no greater than 10 picocuries per gram at a rate of 450 pounds per acre per year. EPA needs confirmation that this new product will not result in an increase above this established baseline. Therefore, EPA wants more data on the actual application rate of this product.

Ms. Bonnelycke stated that negotiating the criteria for implementing full production of this product would need to be spelled out in the FPA, depending on the results of the study phase. Mr. Evers said "this is not a project unless EPA can guarantee that this product will be commercially viable; if we can't sell the product we will not be able to invest in the infrastructure." Ms. Bonnelycke answered that the kind of study EPA is recommending is the same kind of market analysis the company would need to conduct for its own business plan. Mr. Smith asked if EPA expected the company to develop the initial projection of usage and production rates. Ms. Rosenberg answered that EPA expects the company to perform the study phase, collect the necessary data, and then demonstrate to EPA that full commercialization would not increase the overall radiation risk.

Ms. Basu brought up that the product could have other applications (e.g., golf courses, the container growth industry). Hershel Morris (LA DAF/LSU Agricultural Center) said that an agricultural use includes horticultural as well as agronomic uses, so that container applications of this product will still need to go through his state agency. Mr. Ferarra said the project needs flexibility and opportunity to succeed, but agreed that the terms for development could be worked out in the FPA. Ms. Bonnelycke said EPA is aware that data from test marketing the product is needed for the risk assessment. Mr. Evers asked whether modeling in the study phase will be based on real world data. Ms. Bonnelycke confirmed that a conventional rate application study, combined with a reality check of actual practices, would be appropriate.

Ms. Rosenberg asked if the company had some phosphogypsum available with a radioactive concentration of less than 10 picocuries per gram. Mr. Hujabre answered their facility's process is such that the phosphogypsum produced will generally contain a concentration of 14 picocuries. Ms. Rosenberg asked if PCS Nitrogen had considered a trial study phase of this product using phosphogypsum below the 10 picocuries threshold, in order to take advantage of the fact that phosphogypsum at this concentration can be used for agricultural purposes without separate approval from EPA. Mr. Evers answered that PCS Nitrogen wants assurance from EPA that the project will be able to go forward with the facility's average concentration phosphogypsum, because that is what will determine the competitiveness of the project.

Afternoon Session

State and Source Objectives

Ms. Cardenas explained that the next part of the meeting would be a discussion of the objectives of the state and source (i.e., company) regarding this project. She said this exercise will need to be repeated at the kickoff meeting to include the perspectives of stakeholders.

Mr. Bohlinger said he was not sure that the State of Louisiana had any objectives regarding this proposal at this time, since they individually were just recently informed about it. He said the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has been working with XL, and has a strong interest in regulatory relief, regulatory innovation, flexibility, and enhancing the environment. Mr. Ferarra asked if the State had any initial concerns regarding the proposal. Mr. Bohlinger said no, the State has experience with a similar process being used by sugar cane farmers and does not have any risk-related concerns. Mr. Trahan said that it appears likely that this is not an area the State is actively regulating at this time. He agreed that the Department of Environmental Quality might be interested in instituting enforceability of this project by putting conditions into an amendment to the site's radiation control license or its Title V permit. Mr. Hujabre brought up the issue that this product may be sold in other states, such as Texas. Ms. Cardenas said this point may need further discussion. It may be useful to keep other states informed about this project (but not necessarily at the table) if something is known about where the material is expected to be transported.

Mr. Morris said the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry will not have any issues with this product until it is put on the market. Ms. Rosenberg said EPA assumes that the company will do what is necessary to be approved by agricultural authorities. Mr. Morris confirmed that fertilizers are regulated at the state level, and that the proposed product would be classified as a fertilizer. Mr. Morris said he attended this meeting for informational purposes and to add what he can: he is interested in following this project to minimize having to come up to speed on a new product in the future.

Mr. Trahan asked if EPA's principal concern was that economic studies be done to analyze the price limiting factor on the application rate, in order not to exceed safe risk levels. Ms. Bonnelycke said that EPA cannot be involved in telling a company how to price a product. Ms. Rosenberg said EPA wants to know what are the economic and agricultural incentives to over or under apply this new product. EPA can only regulate the manufacturer of the product, not the farmer. Mr. May added that EPA's standard allows unrestricted agricultural use of phosphogypsum so long as the radioactive concentration of the phosphogypsum remains below 10 picocuries. He said EPA's interest is to ensure that the new product will not be applied in larger quantities than conventional phosphogypsum. Once EPA has this assurance, it will approve full commercialization. Mr. Evers asked if the Louisiana agricultural department set an application limit, would this be sufficient for EPA's assurance? Mr. Basu said it is a standard process for the state agricultural departments to set application limits for new products. Ms. Bonnelycke responded that a conventional agronomic study would still be needed to analyze actual field application rates. Ms. Rosenberg said she would check with an attorney in her office regarding the issue of application rates varying by state. Mr. Morris added that his state department always works with companies regarding labeling and application rates during the commercialization of a new product.

Mr. Ferarra said PCS Nitrogen's objective was approval from all parties (state environmental and agricultural agencies, U.S. EPA, stakeholders). Mr. Evers said his company does not want to develop a product that is not safe for human consumption. Mr. Patterson said he wants a modification in the regulations: he suggested that perhaps during the XL process an appropriate modification may become clear. He said another objective would be something that would help other facilities follow PCS Nitrogen's lead. He added that their phosphogypsum is used safely in a variety of products in Canada and Europe, and that it may be time to re-evaluate the U.S. position on this substance. Ms. Bonnelycke asked if PCS Nitrogen has had any discussions with its industry counterparts about the ripple affect of this technology. Mr. Patterson and Mr. Hujabre said no, although they are planning on discussing the project with sister plants within PCS Nitrogen. Mr. Hujabre noted that this project is only designed for a phosphogypsum with a radioactive concentration barely over EPA's safe level. In general, PCS Nitrogen has a lower level of radium in its phosphogypsum than many other companies in the industry.

Mr. Basu stressed that he has spent a lot of time and money on this process. He said his company has provided all the data it can, and now they need unlimited marketing flexibility. Mr. Basu expressed frustration concerning obtaining assurances from EPA regarding moving the project forward. Ms. Cardenas said that EPA's regulations state that phosphogypsum cannot be taken from a stack for agricultural use purposes, if the average concentration of radium exceeds 10 picocuries per gram at the place where the phosphogypsum is to be removed. Under the alternate use permit authority under section 206 of the CAA, EPA can examine the risks involved with a proposal, and if the proposal will meet the same risks limits as imposed in other places by section 204, EPA can approve this alternate use. Mr. May clarified that the authority to make this determination resides at EPA Headquarters, not the regions. PCS Nitrogen's proposal could come to EPA under an alternate use permit under section 206. However, EPA would still need to approve this proposal, and a study will still need to be conducted by the facility. Mr. Basu asked whether EPA approval would be needed if a new stack were made with only phosphogypsum at a concentration of less than 10 picocuries. Mr. May and Ms. Rosenberg answered yes, such a stack could be used for agricultural purposes without approval from EPA.

State, Company, and Stakeholder Participation

Louisiana is very supportive of XL and plans to be involved through the whole process with PCS Nitrogen. Mr. Ferarra said that the facility has a strong relationship with the State, and "if State wants us to do something, we will do it. We have an excellent relationship and we will follow their procedures." Mr. Ferarra said there is full support from the plant and from the corporation. Mr. Hujabre said the facility has spent a great deal of money and effort in the past few years, and would like to see this work come to fruition. Ms. Cardenas asked if the company anticipated any problems with the economic and handling phases of the initial study. Mr. Ferarra answered that, once a proposal protocol for the study is outlined at the kickoff meeting, PCS Nitrogen does not anticipate having a problem with beginning to analyze the economic aspects of the project.

Ms. Bonnelycke confirmed that EPA's goal was to lay out the conditions for the study in the FPA. Mr. Hujabre brought up the issue that the FPA is not a legally binding document, and Ms. Cardenas confirmed this fact but said EPA would work through the state regarding enforcement. Mr. Basu asked if the FPA could be called a good faith agreement. Ms. Bonnelycke said that is the spirit of the document. Mr. Smith agreed that "good faith" is definitely read in to these agreements, and he suggested that the FPA be considered a blueprint for how all of the partners will act during the process. Some commitments will be more firm than others (e.g., we know we can do this, we will try to do this). Mr. Hujabre asked what will happen if the project does not go ahead even after an FPA is completed. Ms. Cardenas answered the FPA specifies what will happen under various scenarios. Mr. Smith said that the recent Project XL Federal Register (FR) notice provides some detail on what can happen: for example, there are certain commitments that can be made regarding dissolving or reworking the agreement if commitments are not met. Ms. Bonnelycke suggested that participants look over the background literature provided in the FR notice prior to the kickoff meeting.

Ms. Cardenas emphasized that Region 6 has committed herself, Mr. Bond, and Mr. Smith full time to staff XL projects. PCS Nitrogen's proposal would be the second project in the region. The first Region 6 XL project, the Union Carbide project, is currently trying to come to closure on its FPA. A few other projects are in the pre-selection stage, one of which is a Lucent Technologies joint project with Region 3.

Ms. Cardenas advised PCS Nitrogen to start working on developing its stakeholder group right away. Ms. Bonnelycke reminded the group that the recent XL FR notice lays out different degrees of involvement of stakeholders. EPA Headquarters expects the facility to put its own stakeholder group together, although EPA will maintain veto power if it feels the stakeholder group is inadequate. Mr. Ferarra said that a protocol already exists at the company to communicate risk-related issues in regards to the phosphogypsum. PCS Nitrogen will use this as its starting point. Ms. Cardenas said that the FR notice also has information on the kinds of training available for stakeholders. She mentioned that trained facilitators are available in the Regional office, and funds may be available to send them to full project team meetings. However, EPA does not pay for facilitators for "non-core" company-sponsored meetings with its stakeholders. Direct participant stakeholders have access to funds for technical assistance. Mr. Basu asked if Louisiana State University could be tapped to provide the technical assistance for the group. Ms. Cardenas and Ms. Bonnelycke said this process is still under development at EPA Headquarters, but it would involve disbursing up to $25,000 per project. Ms. Bonnelycke said that if participants have more questions about these funds, they should call Helga Butler at 202-260-4167.

Mr. Basu said that he expects that many members of the stakeholder group will not be knowledgeable about this product, and that radioactivity is a very difficult subject to communicate. Mr. Basu wondered if a representative from LSU could be qualified as a stakeholder. Ms. Cardenas said that how this project is communicated to stakeholders is the responsibility of the company, with assistance from the State or EPA as needed. Mr. Basu asked what kinds of groups EPA envisioned participating as stakeholders from universities. Ms. Cardenas answered that environmental groups on campus or other people that keep up with news at the plant would be likely stakeholder candidates. Researchers from LSU would more appropriately represent providers of technical data for the study. Mr. Morris said that, through his affiliation with LSU, he could bring the director of the experiment station up to speed as a starting point.

Mr. Patterson pointed out that a large group is expected to attend the kickoff meeting, and asked if the company funds participants' travel costs. Ms. Cardenas answered that this issue was raised at the last national XL meeting held at the region, and it was decided that this is the prerogative of the company. Union Carbide has decided to pay for some of its stakeholders' travel costs. Ms. Cardenas pointed out that most meetings will be at the facility, so this should at least limit the company staff's travel expenses.

Mr. Basu asked if EPA recommends a minimum number of stakeholders. Ms. Cardenas said there are no official guidelines, and that this issue is definitely project-specific. However, EPA's impression is that PCS Nitrogen's current net as described in the proposed project is not wide enough, and needs to include environmental groups. Mr. Patterson responded that PCS Nitrogen is involved in two community advisory panels (in the East Iberville and Ascension parishes). He said that these are extremely large groups, which have given an informal commitment to work with the facility on this project. Ms. Bonnelycke said that the facility may need to involve stakeholders from outside the immediate area of the facility. Mr. Patterson answered that the facility has identified at least one or two statewide groups. Ms. Bonnelycke pointed out that the benefits of the project would occur close to the facility, but that the perceived radiation risks may not be located anywhere near the facility.

Timeline and Project Scheduling Issues

Ms. Cardenas discussed the handout summarizing the "to do's" that must happen in the XL process and associated deadlines. Mr. Evers complemented Region 6 on the handouts for this meeting. Mr. Basu asked if there was a limit on the public notice, and whether a statewide paper needed to be used. Ms. Bonnelycke said that is the company's decision. Mr. Patterson said the company plans to provide notice for XL the same way it is required to provide notice for its permits.

Ms. Cardenas noted that she included a draft agenda for the kickoff meeting in the handouts for the purpose of discussion. She said that the company will need to put in as easy to understand language as possible what the project is (e.g., such as the tone of the project factsheets included in the handout package). She recommended that the company do as much public outreach as possible prior to the kickoff meeting, in an attempt to get the right people at the table. She said that a press release is not required, but she suggested coordinating with Region 6 on that issue. Ms. Cardenas said that if company requests, EPA will assist them with the preparing meeting agendas, coordinating with internal and external participants, and logistics for meeting preparations. Ms. Cardenas asked participants to review the handout on the Project XL process on their own.

Next, Ms. Cardenas discussed the flowchart handout. She said that U.S. EPA's Fred Hansen thinks that it should be possible to complete an FPA in six months; but this has only been achieved with on other project. Ms. Cardenas has set the project timeline for the PCS Nitrogen project for seven months (six months plus a 30 day public comment period). She said that no one will walk away from project team meetings without an assignment; work will be assigned by objective, with a product due by the next meeting. Mr. Basu brought up his fear of losing another growing season. Ms. Cardenas said that the kickoff meeting can be a two day event, with the first day or half a day scheduled around a facility tour. Mr. Morris asked why a whole day is being considered for a tour if only a specific part of the plant will be involved in the project. Ms. Cardenas said that past experience has demonstrated that it is beneficial for everyone to feel that they have a good understanding of the general processes at the facility. The second day meeting attendees need to be full-fledged participants willing to commit their time and effort. She said she realizes the timeline she has proposed is very intensive, but she "is a big believer in success." The seven month timeline begins once a project is selected. Ms. Cardenas recommended taking advantage of contractors as neutral facilitators for project team meetings.

Ms. Cardenas pointed out that if the company can bring stakeholders up to speed prior to the kickoff meeting, the project will run that much more smoothly. She said that is the purpose of doing a project factsheet and other outreach activities. If the project ground rules are established on the first day of the kickoff meeting, all the better, but she warned PCS Nitrogen that this issue is likely to be contentious. Ms. Cardenas noted that subgroups may need to be established in order to move the process along (e.g., an FPA subgroup, a pollution prevention subgroup, etc.). Mr. Trahan asked if full consensus is required within the group: Ms. Cardenas answered no, the definition of agreement and consensus needs to be established by the project team as part of their ground rules. Ms. Cardenas recommended that whatever ground rules are established for the full group be carried down to work in the subgroups. Mr. Ferarra asked for an example of what had worked in past experiences. Ms. Cardenas said that, depending on the number of direct participants, voting schemes have been established whereby certain agencies and stakeholder groups have a set number of votes. Other projects do not use voting systems. It is up to the project team to decide what mechanism it wants to use. Ms. Cardenas said that she expected a lot of the subgroup work to be conducted via conference calls.

Ms. Cardenas said that something during the week of July 21-25 is her "hopeful date" for the two-day kickoff meeting, but this depends on the project begin selected and the date the public notice is published. Ms. Bonnelycke said the company should expect a letter very soon, and that PCS Nitrogen could begin preparing its public notice now. Mr. Patterson said he has someone contacting stakeholders already. Mr. Basu emphasized he does not want to miss the next growing season, and that he wants to begin phase 1 preparations on a parallel basis with development of the FPA. Mr. Evers and Mr. Patterson affirmed that the decision concerning when to go forward with the phase 1 study is a decision PCS Nitrogen needs to make. Ms. Bonnelycke said that as far as approval from EPA goes, the EPA radiation staff would need to be involved. Mr. Ferarra said that PCS Nitrogen does not want to allow any kind of exposure until they have some kind of written approval to protect their interests from EPA (from citizen suits). Ms. Bonnelycke said the company only needs EPA approval to pull phosphogypsum from the stack; it can legally implement the rest of the proposal without EPA. Mr. Patterson agreed PCS Nitrogen needs to decide about implementing the project after additional marketability analyses are complete. Mr. Smith asked if PCS Nitrogen was going to wait to start these analyses until after it receives a selection letter or until after an FPA is negotiated. Mr. Basu asked if they have clearance from EPA to proceed, except for the stakeholders. Ms. Cardenas replied that, after a company receives its selection letter, the next step is negotiating an FPA and it is the company's decision whether or not to proceed. Mr. Ferarra agreed that the company would decide based on the economic results of the phase 1 study.

Mr. Ferarra said PCS Nitrogen is ready to move forward and look into the economics and benefits of this project. Mr. Hujabre said he appreciated Ms. Bonnelycke's participation all day on the telephone, which he said gave them an indication of how dedicated EPA is to this project. He said he was happy with Ms. Cardenas' proposed schedule. He said the ball is now in PCS Nitrogen's court, and he is happy to move on to the next step of holding the kickoff meeting. Ms. Bonnelycke said she would concentrate on providing the written summary of EPA's initial review and the selection letter to the company. She said she would also work with EPA's radiation experts to outline their questions for the phase 1 study. Mr. Hujabre complimented Ms. Cardenas on the meeting, and said is was one of the better meetings he has attended. Mr. Evers commented that he hoped EPA would be very flexible concerning the phase 1 study. Mr. Basu thanked Ms. Cardenas and Mr. Bonnelycke, and said that despite his frustration with the pace of the schedule, he realized this process involves dealing with a large number of people.

Ms. Cardenas thanked the State and company participants who attended the meeting, and asked participants to call her if they had any questions. Mr. Bohlinger noted that the State also has a full-time staff member dedicated to regulatory reinvention projects, John Glenn, who is available to answer questions and provide assistance.


Phone Number
Fax Number

Balli, Javier

Cooperative Extension Service and EPA



Basu, Dave




Basu, Susan




Bohlinger, Hall



Bond, David

EPA Region 6



Bonnelycke, Nina

EPA Headquarters/XL



Bunger, Byron

EPA Headquarters/OAR


Cardenas, Adele

EPA Region 6



Evers, J. Darrell

PCS Nitrogen


Ferarra, Randy

PCS Nitrogen


Fontenot, Gerald

EPA Region 6



Henry, Michael



Hujabre, Ahmad

PCS Nitrogen


May, Hank

EPA Region 6


Morris, Hershel

LA DAF/LSU Agricultural Center


Patterson, Michael

PCS Nitrogen


Rosenberg, Julie

EPA Headquarters/OAR


Smith, Gary

EPA Region 6 (OECA)


Tate, Ragan

EPA Region 6 (ORC)


Trahan, Donald

LA DEQ/Legal


Local Navigation

Jump to main content.