Setting record straight on Magnida project

By Ric Sorbo

I would like to respond to ConAgra’s recent ads in order to correct several statements they made.
ConAgra’s assertion that “Fertilizer plants carry significant risks to health and safety” indicates a lack of understanding of the standards these plants are designed to and is simply not true. Fertilizer production plants put safety first, starting with the design process. Control and monitoring systems are designed into the plant, and are primary design criteria through redundant systems. The plants and their operations are subject to extensive regulatory requirements. Modern fertilizer plants have multiple levels of safety systems, operated by trained and skilled personnel. They have excellent operating records.
ConAgra tries to bolster its assertion by relating our Magnida fertilizer production facility with the explosion that occurred in West, Texas. ConAgra is fully aware there is no connection between the incident and our plant. They have been provided documentation and were present at public meetings where Magnida responded to questions confirming the    Magnida facility will not produce, at any point in its process, the solid form of ammonium nitrate which was stored and exploded in West, Texas. Magnida will produce UAN. UAN is in dilute, liquid form, and is utilized every day by farmers throughout Idaho. ConAgra knows these facts, but unfortunately persists in raising false issues.
On another point, yes, we continue to state that ConAgra is late to the game. The Western Heavy Industrial Zone where Magnida is sited was established in 1994 and re-established in 2009. The previously permitted coal based fertilizer plant received its Special Use Permit in 2008, and it’s Air Permit in 2009. ConAgra made no comments, at all, through either of those processes. In 2013 and 2014, Magnida re-applied for a Special Use Permit, and numerous public meetings and hearings were again held. ConAgra did not make any comments, or submit any objections. Six years is a long time to suddenly decide that someone needs to move “a couple of miles down the road.”
ConAgra asserts that modeling is like forecasting the weather. Try telling that to the EPA and DEQ, who are tasked with ensuring our health and safety. ConAgra would have us believe that modeling is an imperfect science. Again, not true – it is a proven and tested process.
ConAgra asserts that Magnida is in the “initial stages of siting.” Again, not true. Magnida has spent over $40 million developing the facility through activities unique to this site, including infrastructure design, permits, gas and water supply, facility design, geotechnical investigations, and property acquisition. There are well over 200 people working on the development in Idaho, Texas, New York, Germany and other locations – from engineers, bankers, lawyers, environmental scientists, construction companies – to leaders in the American Falls community. Magnida is not in the siting phase at all. Magnida is in the execution phase.
ConAgra would have the public believe that Magnida could move the site “a couple of miles down the road.” This is not true. ConAgra knows there is no other suitable place available in the Heavy Industrial Zone in Power County. ConAgra knows this would throw away millions of dollars of work and almost two years’ worth of effort. The time has come for ConAgra to analyze facts and stop attempting to create hysteria. Losing this project is not in Idaho’s best interest. ConAgra, now is the time to begin working like a partner.  Let’s put our energy into a working partnership that will best serve the people in American Falls and Idaho. Magnida commits to doing so.
Ric Sorbo is the chief executive officer of Magnida.