- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 8, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A federal appeals court panel on Wednesday upheld a judge’s decision to dismiss a steel company’s lawsuit challenging a rival’s $1.3 billion steel mill in northeast Arkansas.

U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes was right in rejecting Nucor Steel’s attempt to stop Big River Steel from building a steel mill in Osceola, located about 20 miles away from Nucor’s plant, the three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. It said it agreed with Holmes’ decision that the company couldn’t use the court system to bypass state regulators who had already given the rival permission.

“In sum, the district court did not err by finding that the (Clean Air Act) does not authorize a preconstruction citizen suit against a party that already has obtained a permit,” the appeals panel said.

Nucor had argued that the Clean Air Act allows its lawsuit under a provision that says a citizen lawsuit is authorized against anyone alleged to be violating an emission standard, or anyone who proposes to build or builds a “major emitting facility” without a permit.

Attorneys for Nucor did not immediately respond to messages left Wednesday afternoon, and a spokesman for Big River Steel declined to comment on the ruling, which is the latest victory for the Big River plant. The Arkansas Appeals Court in December upheld the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission’s decision to issue an air permit for the mill, rejecting a separate challenge from Nucor.

The mill is Arkansas’ first “superproject” under a 2004 state constitutional amendment that allows the state to borrow money to help lure major employers. The state has issued $125 million in bonds for the project, which is also receiving millions in other public funds. Once finished, the plant is expected to employ more than 500 people with an average annual pay of $75,000.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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