Nucor’s air permits questioned

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2012



LAPLACE – The Environmental Protection Agency has asked for clarification from the state Department of Environmental Quality regarding why it decided not to combine air quality permits for Nucor Corporation’s proposed pig iron plant and direct reduced iron facility currently under construction in Convent.

The EPA has also indicated that the LDEQ has not provided adequate information in permit records to determine whether the emissions permits comply with the Clean Air Act. The order, which was issued March 23, was a result of a petition filed by the Zen-Noh Grain Corp., which operates a grain elevator near the Nucor site in St. James Parish just east of the Sunshine Bridge along the Mississippi River.

In the ruling, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson agreed to object to the state permits issued to the Nucor property on grounds that the permits did not adequately address two “threshold issues,” whether the permits for the two facilities should be combined and whether the DEQ then improperly applied information from permits for one of the facilities to permits for the other.

“EPA’s decision is based on the need for justification of the state’s decision to issue two permits on different processes at the proposed facility and on the need for supporting records to help determine the full scope of applicable Clean Air Act requirements,” Jackson said a statement issued by the agency. “EPA has met with the state regarding these permits and is available to assist with any questions the state may have to help move the process forward.”

The petition from Zen-Noh Grain contends that allowing Nucor to file for separate permits allows the company to release more emissions from the two units than would be allowed if the separate units were treated as one. Zen-Noh also contends that the two-permit process allowed Nucor to skirt federal requirements that the combined units would require use of additional “best available control technologies” to reduce emissions.

Combining the permits for the Nucor facility might have forced the company to further reduce emissions of pollutants that cause ground-level ozone pollution and of particulates linked to lung diseases. Both the pig iron plant and the DRI facility have been permitted, and construction has started at the DRI facility and will not stop as a result of the order. There is, however, a stay placed on the pig iron plant to move forward until this petition, and others filed by environmental groups, are addressed.

In a previous response sent to the EPA, the LDEQ explained that the two separate permits were not an attempt to get around stricter regulations designed to prevent an area’s air quality from violating federal standards. The EPA has policies in place to prevent a larger facility from breaking up its operations into separate permits in order to fall below the air quality threshold, but LDEQ officials say that does not apply in the Nucor case because both facilities have gone through additional review.