Court to hear dispute over silicon plant permit

BURNSVILLE — A competitor’s effort to question an air pollution permit for a planned Tishomingo County silicon metal refinery has spilled into court.

The $200 million Mississippi Silicon project, announced in late December, is supposed to create 200 jobs in Burnsville.

Globe Metallurgical of Selma, Ala., is suing the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality in Hinds County Chancery Court.

The suit, filed March 7, contends the state improperly denied an appeal of a permit approved Dec. 10 by the state Permit Board.

The state hasn’t answered the lawsuit yet, but MDEQ wrote in a Feb. 18 letter to Globe Metallurgical that the company waited past the allowed 30-day period before asking for an appeal on Feb. 12.

Globe contends that the board didn’t officially act until it approved the minutes of its Dec. 10 meeting on Jan. 14 and thus it still had time to seek a review.

“We think this thing is far from over,” spokesman Sean Healy said.

MDEQ executive director Trudy Fisher wrote that the 30-day clock begins to run from when the permit board took action on Dec. 10, and not from the date that the board approves its minutes, citing state rules in its Feb. 18 letter that say the period for filing an appeal “shall be calculated from the date of the Permit Board meeting at which the decision of the executive director or his delegate is accepted by the Permit Board.”

MDEQ spokesman Robbie Wilbur said the state hasn’t replied in court to Globe’s lawsuit, but pointed back to the letter.

Globe also noted in its lawsuit that Fisher wrote a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 16 saying that Mississippi had responded to EPA concerns and changed part of the permit. Globe claims that’s proof that the permit wasn’t finalized on Dec. 10.

Thought the lawsuit focuses on Globe’s right to appeal, the competing silicon metal maker claims, in the underlying dispute, that state regulators acted improperly in approving the air pollution permit for Mississippi Silicon. Globe says the state didn’t follow federal rules to require the best available pollution control technology and will allow the new metal-maker to emit too many fine particles.

Though some other U.S. manufacturers make silicon metal for their own use, Globe’s four U.S. plants are the only domestic producers for a commercial market. It’s a unit of Miami-based Globe Specialty Metals.

Rima Holdings USA Inc. owns 80 percent of Mississippi Silicon. It’s an affiliate of Rima Industrial SA in Brazil, a metals and casting firm. The other 20 percent is owned by Clean Tech I LLC, a domestic investor group led by John Correnti, who led the effort to build the steel mill in Columbus that is now Severstal.

Mississippi Silicon CEO David Tuten declined comment.

“We just want to take the high road,” he said.

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