Lawsuits filed to stop Nucor construction

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 25, 2012



CONVENT – Representatives for the company that operates a grain terminal next to the site of the proposed Nucor steel making facility in St. James Parish filed federal and state lawsuits to stop construction on the 4,000-acre site in Convent.

Zen-Noh Grain Corp. filed legal papers Friday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, and Monday in the 19th Judicial District in Baton Rouge. The suit contends the state has not performed its duty in measuring the potential impact of the steel mill on the public’s health.

According to a release from Zen-Noh, in addition to halting construction, the suit also aims to halt permits already issued to Nucor and asks the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to conduct a new review of all permits needed for Nucor to comply with the federal Clean Air Act.

In 2010, North Carolina-based Nucor proposed a $3.4 billion steel mill near Convent to be built in five phases over several years. In March of 2011, Nucor broke ground on the first phase of construction, a $750 million direct reduced iron plant. Nucor has acquired permits for the DRI facility and a pig iron manufacturing plant.

Earlier this year, Zen-Noh filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency asking for a review of the process DEQ used in issuing the permits to Nucor. 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 DEQ then improperly applied information from permits for one of the facilities to permits for the other. DEQ was given 90 days to explain the permitting process.

Zen-Noh President and CEO John D. Williams said in a news release that the Covington-based company “does not oppose economic development and job creation in the state and River Region.” He added that Zen-Noh strongly believes appropriate processes should be strictly followed to ensure the protection of the environment and the health and safety of people who live and work in the area.

“The reality is that these suits need never have been filed if the Department of Environmental Quality had complied with the letter and the spirit of the law and the appropriate process for permitting,” Williams said.

According to the Zen-Noh release, air quality modeling obtained by the company indicates the combined emissions from the pig iron and DRI processes likely will cause air quality in the River Parishes to violate national ambient air quality standards. Representatives from the DEQ have acknowledged the request from the EPA and are currently working to provide the information requested.