- Associated Press - Friday, March 21, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - An administrative law judge has affirmed an air permit issued for the planned $1 billion Big River Steel project in northeast Arkansas.

Administrative Law Judge Charles Moulton sided with Big River Steel on Thursday in an appeal that was filed by Nucor Corp., which argued that Big River Steel did not meet state and federal requirements for the air permit.

Nucor Corp., which is based in Charlotte, N.C., operates two steel plants in Mississippi County, Nucor Steel Arkansas and, in partnership with Yamato Kogyo Corp. of Japan, Nucor-Yamato. Nucor claimed the permit issued Sept. 18 by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality was incomplete and improperly processed, but Moulton disagreed in his ruling and sided with Big River Steel on every issue.

The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission will consider Moulton’s ruling at its March 28 meeting, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Friday (http://bit.ly/1gOmLzY ).

Construction on the steel mill near Osceola remains on hold until at least June as developers line up financing, Big River Steel Chief Executive Officer John Correnti said Thursday. Once construction work begins, it will take about 22 months to complete the plant, he said.

“If the commission rules (in support of Moulton’s decision), we feel we’re on solid ground,” Correnti said. “Not only would I feel we’re on solid ground, but also our lenders and all our equity partners would. Nucor can do what Nucor wants to do. They can keep up this legal gymnastics, if you will, until the cows come home.”

Nucor lead attorney David Taggart did not return a phone call seeking comment on the decision. But Taggart said during the four-day hearing last month that the decision would be appealed if Moulton ruled in favor of Big River Steel.

The Big River Steel plant is expected to employ 550 workers with an average salary of $75,000.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com