The Stories Behind The Story: VW Needs No Additional Permit For Expansion - And Response

Thursday, June 19, 2014

On  May 15 an official announcement was made by Bob Colby of the Air Pollution Control Bureau. Colby stated that VW could construct a plant expansion  without obtaining an additional air pollution control permit.  It is encouraging to know VW will not have to obtain another air permit if VW elects to add to the present plant. Bob’s modesty prevented him from telling this underlying story. 

During the permitting process Bob discussed with VW officials the possibility of obtaining, at the beginning, a permit that would provide for future increases in production. Now, VW  benefits. It does not have to follow the route of  application; processing; draft-permit; public-comment; public-hearing; possibly a revision to produce the final permit. That has now already been done.

Further, concerning Bob Colby and VW, there is this little-known episode that occurred during VW’s information gathering for making the decision on whether Chattanooga would get the plant that we now have. 

At an early meeting between VW and officials of local government, Bob was asked for an estimate of the time lapse from the Bureau’s receipt of the application for permit to issuance of the permit. Colby gave his estimate of 90 days.

An attorney for VW who specializes in permits for automobile assembly plants informed Mr. Colby, “I’ve been in this business for three decades, and  I’ve never seen a permit come out that quickly. 

Bob responded, “I’ll stand by answer of 90 days.” 

The application was received by the Bureau August 8, 2008. The permit was issued Oct, 10, 2008.

There is an underlying story, too, on how that was accomplished. 

As VW was pre-planning, so was Colby. In anticipation such questions from VW Bob Colby was assembling his facts. He met with EPA Region 4 officials in Atlanta. He returned to Chattanooga armed with a recent application for air permit for an automobile plant. He had selected team of engineers to work on the permit if VW selected Chattanooga as the plant site. Cynthia McDaniel, an outstanding engineer at the Bureau was team leader. Often, preparation means  the difference between victory and defeat. 

Jody Baker 

* * * 

Could I have one of those permits as well? My car failed emissions due to a faulty gas cap.  

Michael Burns


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