- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

OSCEOLA, Ark. (AP) - Mississippi County should see construction of a $1.1 billion steel mill begin by early summer now that an administrative law judge has rejected a challenge to the plant’s air-quality permit, the county’s chief administrative officer said.

County Judge Randy Carney told the Jonesboro Sun newspaper on Sunday that hiring could begin within the next couple of months.

“I expect them to hire in May for construction,” Carney said. “After that, it will be full throttle.”

The plant is expected to employ 2,000 people during construction and have about 600 permanent employees.

“It will change Mississippi County for the better,” Carney said.

Nucor Steel, which has two mills east of Blytheville, had challenged Big River Steel’s air-quality permit, saying the plant didn’t fulfill state and federal anti-pollution requirements. An administrative law judge last week rejected the challenge.

Nucor officials said last month they would appeal if the administrative law judge ruled against it. The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission has a meeting Friday but a spokeswoman said the judge’s decision is not on the agenda.

John Correnti, who is directing the Big River Steel effort, called the challenges “frivolous legal gymnastics.”

Since Big River Steel announced it would build a mill near Osceola, a number of other businesses have also announced plans for the county.

Blue Oak Arkansas hopes to close soon on a deal that would have it build a $35 million facility to reclaim metals from refrigerators and cellphone circuit boards. It would employ 75 people. Correnti is Blue Oak’s board chairman.

Also, last April, a Texas company, Indigo Resources, said it would build a rail-to-barge oil terminal near Osceola, creating 200 permanent jobs after using 800 workers for construction. The oil would be shipped from Canada and North Dakota by rail to Osceola, then sent by barge down the Mississippi River.

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