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Nucor Objection Delays Big River Steel Construction

2 min read

Nucor Steel is trying to block the opening of a competing $1.1 billion steel mill in Mississippi County in northeast Arkansas by objecting to the new company’s requests for environmental permits.

Arkansas Economic Development Commission spokesman Joe Holmes said Monday the schedule for starting construction is being pushed back to the first quarter 2014 as a result. Construction was to have started this year.

“From our standpoint it’s something that will be worked through, and we feel confident once resolved Big River will break ground and build the mill,” Holmes told Arkansas Business on Monday.

In a near-700-page filing with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, Nucor claims that the AEDQ has a conflict of interest in regulating the plant because the state has pledged funding to help get the mill built. Nucor also claims the agency lacked key information when it approved the permit.

In the document, Nucor makes nearly 50 individual comments about the draft air permit for Big River Steel, even pointing out typographical errors and incorrect references throughout the permit.

More: Download Nucor’s 697-page document (PDF) objecting to Big River Steel.

The AEDQ said Monday that a preliminary hearing on Nucor’s objections is scheduled for Thursday.

Gov. Mike Beebe and the project’s leader, former Nucor executive John Correnti, announced the Big River Steel mill in January. Located along the Mississippi River just south of Osceola, the plant is supposed to employ 525 people earning an average of $75,000 per year and create hundreds of construction jobs.

During this year’s legislative session, lawmakers approved a a $125 million incentive package for the project, which includes a $50 million loan. In addition, the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System is investing $60 million in Big River Steel.

Nucor, which operates two steel plants near Blytheville, has objected to the new plant from the start, arguing that having another steel mill in northeast Arkansas would negatively affect its business and could force it to scale back its Arkansas workforce. Project supporters have said that both companies will be able to prosper in the region.

Some of the funding for the plant comes from German investors. AEDC Director Grant Tennille has said that lenders in Germany won’t put up their money until the plant has a green light on the environmental permit. The agency says the financial backers are still on board.

(Mark Carter of Arkansas Business and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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