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    Arkansas House tackles "Q&A" on steel mill proposal

    12:03 AM, Feb 7, 2013   |    comments
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    Additional Links:
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- A proposed steel mill for Northeast Arkansas promises to bring hundreds of new jobs and an average salary of $75,000, but at the Capitol Wednesday, officials said if lawmakers don't approve funding for it, another state will quickly snatch it up.

    "I'm looking more specifically to water discharges. Are we going to have any water discharges there?" a member of the Arkansas House asked.

    The Arkansas House had its chance Wednesday to ask away about the proposed $1.1 billion Big River Steel Mill for Osceola.

    "I would like someone to talk about really maybe about the generational life of a steel mill?" another member of the House asked.

    Lawmakers have to decide whether or not to approve $125 million for the steel mill. Back in 2004, Arkansas voters passed a special amendment giving the state authority to do something like this through a bond issue for economic development.

    "I think it was well-received, hearing from Grant and George and French Hill and the others, that there's been a lot work done," House Speaker Davy Carter said.

    House Speaker Davy Carter said the deal includes safeguards like $300 million in equity upfront from company investors and lenders. The deal also appeared to not only be on the table in Arkansas right now.

    Grant Tennille, the head of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said if lawmakers turn it down, "I have no doubt that it will be announced quickly by another state."

    The speaker said that there's more work ahead, including an independent impact study on this project required by law. Officials also need to get back to some lawmakers on some answers.

    "I can't answer that, but I will find out the answer for you," Tennille said to a lawmaker.

    As for the last comment there, a lawmaker asked about whether or not the steel mill company will need a discharge permit for water coming from the plant.

    Another question mentioned was about the life of these kinds of steel plants, and Tennille said it's around 40 years.

    As for a timeline here, lawmakers are expected to make a final decision on whether or not to finance the project by the end of this session.

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