- Associated Press - Saturday, March 22, 2014

CONVENT, La. (AP) - The federal Environmental Protection Agency is ordering the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to tighten the air pollution permit granted to Nucor Corp.’s St. James Parish plant.

NOLA.com ‘ The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/1exZlOq) that the EPA concludes the pig iron and direct reduced iron manufacturing plants violate parts of the federal Clean Air Act.

The objections were published Friday in the Federal Register.

The EPA has ordered Louisiana to require additional controls to block release of toxic pollutants from the plant’s coke ovens, including arsenic, benzene, lead compounds and cobalt compounds. Coal is heated into coke, which is then used in ovens to convert iron ore into iron.

The federal agency says coke oven emissions can cause cancer, if not controlled.

EPA also objected to the direct reduced iron permit, because it failed to include any emission limits for fine particulate matter that is 2.5 microns or smaller. Inhaling those extremely fine particles has been linked to lung disease.

DEQ spokesman Gregory Langley said the state is working on a response to the EPA decision. The response is due by April 30. Officials with Nucor could not be reached for comment.

The federal claims are among several originally raised about the state permits by the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and the Sierra Club, in a series of petitions to EPA between 2010 and 2013. Federal regulators agreed to some of the concerns of the environmental groups, but it ruled against the groups’ complaint that the state improperly issued separate permits for the pig iron and direct reduced iron facilities.

EPA also found that the pig iron plant permit failed to require enough monitoring to ensure compliance with certain pollutant emission limits. That plant has not yet been built.

Nucor began operating the direct reduced iron plant in Convent in December. The complex could grow to a $3.4 billion investment employing as many as 1,250.

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com