SUIT AGAINST IND. AGENCY CAN CONTINUE, JUDGE SAYS

SUIT AGAINST IND. AGENCY CAN CONTINUE, JUDGE SAYS

A controversial soil-treatment company can continue pursuing its lawsuit against the Indiana Port Commission, a Marion County judge decided.

Gerald S. Zore, a judge in the civil division of Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis, denied the Indiana Port Commission's motion for a quick judgment on the lawsuit, filed in June by Sonas Soil Resource Recovery of Indiana.David Gunter, an Indianapolis lawyer representing Sonas, said the judge's decision means Sonas can proceed with its plans to take depositions - sworn statements - from state port and environmental officials.

No trial date has been set. In its suit, Sonas is asking for either $22 million or a new lease on state-owned land at Burns International Harbor in Portage.

The port commission asked Zore, during a hearing last week, to decide the lawsuit on the basis of the information submitted so far. Zore denied that motion Tuesday.

Frank G. Martin Jr., the port commission's executive director, couldn't be reached for comment.

Sonas, a Pennsylvania company, wants to build a soil-treatment plant at the Portage port. The plant would be designed to remove oil contamination from 300,000 tons of soil a year.

The Indiana Port Commission leased 14 acres of land at Burns International Harbor to Sonas last October; the lease said Sonas had to start building the plant by June 1.

When no construction had begun by that date, the Indiana Port Commission said Sonas had defaulted on the lease.

The company, however, contended it couldn't meet the port commission's deadline, because the Indiana Department of Environmental Management hadn't given the company a permit to build.

Late last year, Sonas' application for a state environmental permit touched off a storm of criticism. Environmentalists contended that the plant's emissions would add to northwest Indiana's air pollution.

The permit consideration process of the environmental department had been extended, in part, because of the controversy. After the port commission cancelled the Sonas lease, the department suspended its consideration of Sonas' permit application.