Plans for fertilizer plant in southern Indiana under scrutiny over Pakistani company

At least 5 killed in Texas plant explosion

INDIANAPOLIS - While Indiana doesn't have any fertilizer manufacturing plants like the one that exploded in Texas, killing several people , the state was recently in negotiations with a company that wanted to build one here.

Up until four months ago, state officials were in negotiations to provide tax incentives to a Pakistani company to build a plant in Posey County on the grounds of the state-owned Port of Mt. Vernon.

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Eric Bardner , a reporter with the Evansville Courier & Press , which is owned by RTV6's parent company Scripps, said Gov. Mike Pence held up state support for the deal after U.S. military officials had security concerns about that Pakistani firm, the Fatima Group.

"This company apparently had been picked out by the Pentagon because its fertilizer was being used in explosives in the Middle East," Bradner said. "The Pentagon was asking the company to make some changes and hadn't really agreed on exactly how those changes would be made."

But the absence of fertilizer manufacturing plants doesn't mean there is no danger in Indiana.

State officials said about 1,000 locations here, ranging from agriculture co-ops to farms, store or mix fertilizer in quantities great enough to require state inspection under rules passed in the early 1990s. 

Those inspections are not carried out by the Department of Environmental Management or Homeland Security. They're the responsibility of the State Chemist's office located at Purdue University, which has about 15 employees.

Key legislators from both parties said they're satisfied with that situation given the relatively low concentrations of those chemicals in Indiana. 

But if a fertilizer manufacturing plant became a reality here, the chairman of the House Environmental Affairs Committee said he'd want a higher authority to take responsibility.

"If we actually had manufacturing plants, probably we could use a little more supervision other than the state chemist," Rep. David Wolkins, R-Warsaw.

That could happen if the problems with Fatima are resolved. The Pentagon said Fatima has become more cooperative with plans to change its manufacturing formula to make its fertilizer components easier to track.

Follow Norman Cox on Twitter: @normancox6

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