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6:05 PM Thu, Nov. 15th

Decision on North Star Steel permit still months away

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is still reviewing North Star Steel's application for a revised emissions permit, and comments by permit opponents filed since a November hearing in Kingman.

"We hope within two weeks to have a good package to send to EPA," Patrick Gibbons, a spokesman for ADEQ, said Thursday.

"Then they (federal officials) will have 45 days in which to make a decision."

Gibbons said the review process for the major-source permit has been delayed because the application had to be sent back to North Star for clarification.

Also, "We have received more than 100 comments opposing the permit, and we are still looking at all of them to make sure the concerns are properly addressed," Gibbons said.

Many comments opposing the permit were submitted after a public hearing Nov.

1 in Kingman, he added.

North Star officials have "submitted the science that supports" the permit and are "confident that it is in the interests of the public for the permit to be granted," spokesman Greg Lauser has said.

The permit would allow North Star to increase annual emissions by the Kingman mini-mill to 3,185 tons of carbon monoxide, 584 tons of nitrogen oxides, 223 tons of inhalable particulate matter, 186 tons of volatile organic compounds, 105 tons of sulfur dioxide and 1.3 tons of lead.

Located on 425 acres off Shinarump Drive and Interstate 40, North Star currently operates the plant with a minor-source permit, which allows it to emit 100 tons of pollutants per year.

The group Citizens for Future Generations opposes the major-source air permit.

In a letter to ADEQ in December, Citizens member Jack Ehrhardt stated that the permit application is "legally defective" and accused North Star Steel officials of telling their employees not to reveal emissions testing results.

In November 2001, North Star pleaded guilty to two criminal charges and agreed to pay $4 million in fines and other penalties for allowing the Kingman plant to violate clean-air standards.

The company also was ordered to contribute $125,000 to a fund for road paving in Kingman.

Just four months earlier, North Star settled a civil complaint and agreed to pay a $7.75 million fine.

Of that amount, $2.75 million was earmarked for paving roads in Golden Valley.

The Kingman mini-mill produces steel wire rods and reinforcement bars for the construction industry from recycled automobiles, appliances and industrial scrap.

North Star's parent company is Minneapolis-based Cargill.