Becky Keogh, director of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, said she and her staff had recent meetings with officials at Sun Paper Industry of China on pre-engineering and environmental permitting for the $1.3 billion mega-project in Clark County.
A year ago on Nov. 22, 2015, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state economic officials signed a “letter of investment cooperation” that led to the Sun Paper project, which aims to create 250 new jobs at an annual average salary of $52,000. The pulp plant will take Arkansas timber and timber by-products and process them into materials to make baby diapers and other finished products.
At the time, Sun Paper officials said they hoped to begin construction on the project in the first quarter of 2017, but that timetable was pushed back to the third quarter of 2017 due to permitting considerations.
Keogh said she believes Sun Paper will be able to submit permit applications for the paper mill by January. In the past, ADEQ officials said the Sun Paper facility will likely need a “major source” unified air permit for construction and operation.
The project will also likely need two storm water permits – one for the construction phase of the project and an operational permit once the facility is built – and a wastewater discharge permit. When ADEQ receives a permit application, staff in the regulatory area covered by the permit will conduct an initial review to determine whether the application is “administratively complete,” as defined by regulations.
If deficiencies are found, the applicant is notified and asked to submit additional information. Once the administratively complete determination is made, a legal notice announcing that finding is published. The notice also provides the opportunity for initial public comment and to request a public hearing on the proposal. It is the ADEQ’s discretion whether to schedule such a hearing.
According to ADEQ officials, large industrial projects can typically take from six months up to a year or more to gain final approval under the federal Clean Air Act Title V rules for so-called “major sources” of air pollution, which is an industrial facility that emits or has the potential to emit 100 tons of any air pollutant, 10 tons of any hazardous air pollutant or 25 tons of a combination of hazardous pollutants annually.
Sun Paper has hired Finnish engineering firm Pöyry to contract with Arkansas firms and other U.S. firms throughout the course of the project. With product feasibility studies completed, the decision has been made for the Sun Paper mill to produce not fluff pulp, as was first considered, but dissolving pulp.
Dissolving pulp is used in the manufacturing of rayon for consumer and industrial applications. Sun’s decision will provide a product, dissolving pulp to an already established customer base and a large market in China.