First, the court filings include an email from Bonnie Morgan who works in permitting for MDEQ. In the email, Ms. Morgan states:
However, I am actively working on the PSD construction permit to keep the project moving forward. On a side note, I do plan on at some point testing the temperature of the waters with Nucor to get their feelings on this project. Why this is important is because of the history of these people and Nucor. It's possible that Nucor will make comments at the last minute to extend the final permit such that we may need to hold a public hearing during the public notice period so that we can resolve all comments as quickly as possible so that the facility can have a final permit in place for financing as soon as possible.
This is interesting for a couple of reasons. The suit alleges that MDEQ closed the comment period early, denying environmental experts an opportunity to comment on the impact of this plant on the surrounding communities and waterways. According to this email, Ms. Morgan clearly was aware that Nucor, a competitor to Rima Industrial with two facilities in Mississippi, was expected to provide comments in the final days of the comment period and that Ms. Morgan wanted to keep that from happening.
This opens up two interesting questions.
First, why is Ms. Morgan, whose job it is to ensure new projects fully comply with environmental law, actively working to exclude comments from an existing Mississippi employer with extensive subject matter expertise? Shouldn’t Ms. Morgan be welcoming all experts that have information that would provide insight to help Ms. Morgan do her job? After all, as it is noted noted on the MDEQ website, their mission is to “…safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of present and future generations of Mississippians…”?
But my larger question is this: Why is Ms. Morgan making her primary interest timely construction of the Burnsville plant? Shouldn’t compliance with state environmental law be her only concern? Instead she promises, “to keep the project moving forward” and “resolve all comments as quickly as possible so that the facility can have a final permit in place for financing as soon as possible.” Again, MDEQ’s mission, and Ms. Morgan’s job, is to “…safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of present and future generations of Mississippians…” – not to deny public hearing (which are required by federal law) so that proposed facilities can have “final permit in place for financing as soon as possible.”
It could be that (as we have noted) John Correnti, one of the primary funders of Mississippi Silicon, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Mississippi Republicans over the years. Or that Gov. Bryant personally flew to Brazil to court Rima Industrial, a company that was under criminal indictment for money laundering, fraud, and racketeering.
But here’s something else that’s interesting: Mississippi Silicon responded to the complaint boasting that “Mississippi Silicon has the potential to create 150 new full-time, permanent jobs in Burnsville within the first three years of operations.” In court documents, they go on to state – under penalty of perjury – that maybe, somewhere over the rainbow, they may create as many as 200 jobs. Here’s the rub: according to the Memorandum of Understanding Mississippi Silicon signed with the MDA to get almost $25 million in state and local incentives, the plant must assure:
…the creation of not less than Two Hundred (200) new full-time jobs (the "Job Creation Commitment")…within three (3) years after the Start of Commercial Production…and maintain such number of jobs for a period of seven (7) years (the "Maintenance Period")
Meaning, they don’t create 200 jobs – not 150, as they claim they have the potential to create – they don’t get our money.
Just an aside, Nucor – whom the state took extraordinary lengths to refuse to allow comment – employs hundreds of Mississippians and says they have never laid off a worker. Mississippi Silicon – for whom the state has made every conceivable effort to give competitive advantages – has already cut 25% of its workforce. And they aren’t even open for business yet. But I digress.
Reading this reminded us of a quote that came out of the governor’s office when they claim the first learned of the racketeering, fraud and money laundering charges being brought against Rima Industrial. According to the North East Mississippi Daily Journal:
Nicole Webb, a spokeswoman for Gov. Phil Bryant, also pointed out…that there are "clawback" provisions in the agreement with Mississippi Silicon "that protect taxpayers in the event a company violates the terms of its agreement."
So to review, since he attended the ribbon cutting for the Burnsville plant, Governor Bryant has learned that one of his partners is an indicted felon; another is a long time political contributor, with a history of failed businesses; a person on his own staff actively worked to short circuit the permitting process; and that Mississippi Silicon themselves say that the plant will not create the number of jobs required to comply with their agreement.
If all of this doesn’t constitute cause for exercising “clawback provisions” to “protect taxpayers in the event a company violates the terms of its agreement," what possibly ever would?