CHICAGO Nucor Corp. is mounting another legal challenge to potential competitor Big River Steel LLCs proposed $1.1-billion steel mill project near Osceola, Ark.
The Charlotte, N.C.-based steelmaker has filed a lawsuit in Mississippi County Circuit Court against Big River Steel and state environmental officials that seeks to block construction of the mill.
Nucors lawsuit challenges an April 25 decision by the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission that upheld the issuance of an air permit for Big River Steel. "Nucor ... requests the court implement a stay of any construction activities ... until the conclusion of this appeal," Nucor said in court documents.
The Big River Steel project appeared poised to move forward after the commission last month upheld a permit for the plant (amm.com, April 25). But Nucor argues in court filings that the commissions decision should be vacated because it "constitutes legal error."
Nucor has demanded that Osceola City Council retain records related to Big River Steel as part of the "citizen suit" against the potential competitor, according to a letter to the council dated May 5.
In addition, lawyers for Nucor have filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the city to obtain documents related to a bond issuance for Big River Steel, according to a May 9 letter.
Charles Moulton, the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commissions administrative law judge, told AMM May 21 that the court cant move on the merits of the appeal until the commission files an administrative record on the case. That process is under way and should be completed "in the next couple of weeks," he said. Also throwing the timeline of the appeal in doubt is the possibility that Big River Steel could ask that the case be moved to the circuit court of appeals, Moulton said.
Big River Steel chief executive officer John Correnti said such decisions were up to company lawyers, but in the meantime the project is going "full-speed ahead," with financing expected to close in late June and groundbreaking to take place in early July. Assuming construction takes two years, Big River Steel would be starting up in July 2016, he told AMM May 21.
"It hasnt affected us," Correnti said of Nucors appeal. "We have what we think is a rock-solid, valid air permit."
In the letter to Osceola City Council, Nucor attorneys said council members were potential witnesses in legal proceedings against Big River Steel for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.
Nucor attorneys demanded the council retain a host of documents pertaining to Big River Steel; Correnti; Miami-based investment bank Global Principal Partners LLC and its senior managing director, David Stickler; and Düsseldorf, Germany-based equipment supplier SMS Siemag AG. Also on the list are Pittsburgh-based engineering and design firm CV Engineering, the U.S. subsidiary of Amsterdam-based Arcadis NV and Kennedy/Jenks Consultants.
In addition, Nucor is demanding that documents relating to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the office of Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and the Arkansas Development and Finance Authority also be retained.