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Nucor suing EPA to force ruling on Big River

Keywords: Tags  steel, John Correnti, Big River Steel, Nucor, lawsuit, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, operating permit, Catherine Ngai

NEW YORK — Nucor Corp. has filed a lawsuit against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy aimed at forcing her to reach a decision regarding the steelmaker’s appeal of an operating permit issued to the proposed Big River Steel LLC facility in Osceola, Ark.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based steelmaker—which operates Nucor Steel-Hickman and Nucor-Yamato Steel Co., both in Arkansas’ Mississippi County—claims the operating permit for Big River Steel’s proposed $1.1-billion steel mill impacts its operations because all three sites are within the same Clean Air Act Air quality control region, it said in documents filed Feb. 11 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

"The (Nucor Steel-Hickman) and (Nucor-Yamato Steel) mills are located in the same county and approximately 20 miles northeast of the site of the proposed (Big River Steel) facility," Nucor said. "Numerous businesses that support the (Nucor Steel-Arkansas) and (Nucor-Yamato Steel) mills also are located in the Northeast Arkansas Intrastate Air Quality Control Region and in Mississippi County, and operate under air permits issued by (the) Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ)."

A representative from the EPA’s office couldn’t be reached due to weather-related closures of federal offices Feb. 13. Nucor also could not be reached.

Under the Clean Air Act requirements, the EPA must respond to petitions within 60 days. However, Nucor alleges that the EPA’s delay is hurting the company.

"The administrator’s failure to grant or deny Nucor’s petition also injures Nucor because it denies Nucor a response to the petition that the Clean Air Act entitles Nucor to receive," the company said in court documents.

The ADEQ issued its Title V Operating permit to Big River Steel last June. Nucor filed a petition in October, which would have set a deadline for Dec. 10.

The Big River Steel project has faced a number of snags since it was announced last year, including an air permit appeal from Nucor that pushed groundbreaking at least into the first quarter (, Nov. 4).

Nucor told state legislators last March that the project would be disruptive because it came at a time when the market was facing oversupply (, March 18).

If approved, steel industry veteran John D. Correnti’s Big River Steel mill would produce hot-rolled, cold-rolled, galvanized, and pickled and oil coil for the automotive sector; grain- and nongrain-oriented electrical steels for the electrical sector; and substrate for the pipe and tube sector. Big River’s mill would have an annual capacity of 1.7 million tons and the ability to make 76- to 78-inch-wide by 1-inch-thick coils.

A hearing on Nucor’s appeal of Big River’s air permit has been set for the week of Feb. 18, an administrative law judge in Arkansas previously told AMM.

Last month, the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission lifted a stay on Big River’s air permit order that blocked construction, a move that allowed the company to perform limited work that included surveying and taking soil samples (, Jan. 27).

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