Steel Mills

Nucor and Big River Wrangle in Federal Court

Written by Sandy Williams

Nucor and Big River Steel met in federal court on Friday in a continuation of Nucor’s bid to stop construction of the rival steel mill.

Nucor claims the air permit granted to Big River Steel was issued incorrectly and that emissions from the future plant will raise pollution levels in the county, violating the Clean Air Act and potentially harming Nucor employees. Nucor also fears state and federal authorities may demand production cutbacks should the addition of Big River’s emissions raise pollutants to unacceptable levels.

Nucor Steel attorney David Taggart argued that the company has a right to contest the permit even though it has already been issued. “You cannot simply take a document and write ‘permit’ on it and say, ‘That’s good enough for us,” he argued during the court hearing in Little Rock.

Big River Steel attorney Mark DeLaquil accused Nucor of trying to bypass a pending appeal of a ruling in state court that upheld Big River’s permit. He argued the federal suit should be dismissed by U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes.

DeLaquil said the state court was the appropriate venue for the case, not the federal court. “There is no other way to construe this suit (than) as a collateral attack,” said DeLaquil.

Attorneys for Big River Steel said that to allow the suit to go forward would set a dangerous precedent.

“The consequences of a contrary decision are staggering. Should Nucor prevail on this issue, (federal) District Courts could become the forum for adjudicating the validity of the nearly 700 PSD permits that are obtained by new sources or major modifications each year,” wrote Big River attorney Adria W. Conklin in a brief presented to the court.

Judges Holmes heard arguments from both sides but did not decide on Friday whether to dismiss the suit.

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