One week after being abruptly told to shutdown and go home, 400 workers at Tyler Pipe's North Plant were back on the job. Today's good news was tempered by the news surrounding a federal investigation launched against the plant. Tyler Pipe President and General Manager, David Green confirmed to Channel 7 news today, a federal subpoena was issued on October 8th. Green said the subpoena requested a wide array of information from the plant, including personnel records, executive compensation records, construction records, air quality tests and blueprints of the foundry.
Green believes the investigation is "a result of recent national media spotlight." He is referring to a New York Times investigative story that referrs to Tyler Pipe's parent company, McWane Incorporated, as one of the most dangerous empoloyers in America.
The FBI and The U.S. Attorney's office both told Channel 7 they could not confirm or deny any existence of a federal subponea or investigation into Tyler Pipe.
In detailed information released to Channel 7, Green addressed exactly why both the North and South Plants were shut down. The North Plant's situation arose in the context of an Emissions Reduction Project that Tyler Pipe had been discussing with the State for about three years. He says this process began shortly after he started at Tyler Pipe in February of 2001. At that time, the company made plans to invest approximately $30 million in an emission reduction project to upgrade the North Plant facility, which includes approximately $10 million on environmental systems. To move forward with this project, Tyler Pipe had to submit a technically intensive permit application in July, 2001 to amend an existing North Plant permit. Obtaining approval from the TCEQ on this project was a "complicated, exhaustive and very expensive process," says Green. In mid-August, 2003, Tyler Pipe received approval from the TCEQ on the requested permit amendment. But, due to an administrative error and the length of time it took to obtain the permit amendment, the existing permit had lapsed. When this administrative error was discovered, Tyler Pipe made the decision to temporarily suspend operations while they received direction from the TCEQ on how to rectify the issue. Late Monday night, Tyler Pipe entered into a Compliance Agreement with the TCEQ to allow the North Plant to operate while Tyler Pipe completed the statutory requirements.
Late last week, Tyler Pipe also chose to temporarily suspend operations in the South Plant while they received clarification from the TCEQ on an issue concerning the facility's air permits.
"We hope to reach an agreement, similar to that in the North Plant, with the TCEQ soon that will allow the South Plant employees to return to work," said Green.
Green was not able to provide a solid timetable for when the South Plant would resume operations.
"We want our South Plant employees to know that we are doing everything possible to resolve this issue as quickly as we can, and they will be coming back to work," said Green.