Nucor challenge to Big River Steel air permit will delay superproject


A challenge to Big River Steel’s air quality permit by Nucor Steel will delay or could trip up the $1.1 billion superproject planned for northeastern Arkansas, but state officials expressed confidence that the steel mill will go forward.

Charlotte-based Nucor, which has two facilities in Mississippi County near the planned location of Big River Steel, has challenged the permit by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, contending the application process is marred with incorrect and inadequate data, lack of proper regulatory review and concerns that air quality standards will be compromised by the project and potential ancillary businesses it may bring to Mississippi County.

State economic officials say the protest will stall groundbreaking for at least 120 days, well into the first quarter of 2014.

Acxiom hints at layoffs in quarterly results

Revenue held steady but profits slipped as data marketer Acxiom Corp. announced its latest quarterly earnings, including a disclosure that layoffs could occur. Little Rock-based Acxiom reported second-quarter net income of $9.84 million, down from a year ago when it posted earnings of $16.5 million.

Acxiom also said that over the next six to 12 months it would reduce its annual cost base by roughly $20 million to $30 million through “simplifying the company’s management structure, centralizing duplicative efforts and standardizing workflows.”

Murphy USA posts $41.7 million profit

Murphy USA, the spin-off retail and refinery business of El Dorado-based Murphy Oil Corp., posted net income of $41.7 million on revenue of $4.79 billion during its first quarter as a standalone business.

One year ago, Murphy USA posted profits of $11 million on revenues of $4.97 billion. Murphy USA said the improved results were primarily driven by higher retail fuel margins and better results from two ethanol facilities.

Windstream earnings clipped by intercarrier charges

Windstream posted quarterly net income of $30.6 million on revenue of $1.503 billion. One year ago, the firm showed profits of $46.8 million on revenue of $1.545 billion.

While Windstream saw consistent growth in its new business channels, it was dinged by regulatory changes in intercarrier compensation rates, which are the charges that one carrier pays to another carrier to originate, transport or terminate telecommunications traffic.

October tax revenues boost state collections, but sales tax sluggish

Four months into the state’s fiscal year, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration’s October revenue report showed that a variety of income tax categories offset a shortfall in expected sales tax revenue during the month.

For October, net available general revenues totaled $372.8 million, up 4.8 percent above last year and 2.2 percent above forecast. Year-to-date, net available general revenues topped $1.69 billion, a 4.3 percent gain above year ago levels and 2.3 percent above projections.

Mid-America Museum to undergo $7.8 million renovation

The Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs will undergo a $7.8 million renovation. The new construction will begin in the summer of 2014 and the museum will close its doors next fall for an estimated six months. Museum officials said the doors will re-open on March 1, 2015.

Baptist Health looking to Conway for expansion

Baptist Health announced plans Wednesday to build a medical center in Conway. Baptist has purchased about 37 acres for a medical center along the west side of Interstate 40 near exit 126 in Conway. The proposed 200,000-square-foot hospital is expected to provide 100 beds, seven operating rooms and a Level III trauma-center emergency room.

Habitat designation for endangered mussels poses land use threat

A federal proposal to designate more than 40 percent of Arkansas as a critical habitat for the protection of two fresh-water mussels is drawing criticism from state elected officials and a variety of private and public sector organizations.

Under the proposal, nearly 800 river miles in Arkansas, including sections of the Ouachita River and Saline River watersheds in southern Arkansas, the Illinois River watershed in Northwest Arkansas and the watersheds of the White River and a number of its tributaries in northern and northeastern Arkansas, would be designated as critical habitat for the Neosho mucket and Rabbitsfoot mussels.