DALLAS — The Louisiana State Bond Commission on Thursday approved $600 million of the state’s dwindling capacity of Gulf Opportunity Zone bonds for an iron and steel project in St. James Parish.

The action, along with approval of the tax-free private-activity bonds for other projects, leaves the state with $60 million from its $7.8 billion GO Zone allocation from Congress in 2006.

Commission director Whit Kling Jr. said a total of $6.3 billion of the bonds have been issued, while another $840 million have been approved but not yet sold.

More capacity may be available next month, as bonds that are not sold within six months after approval by the commission must be returned to the available pool.

All GO Zone bonds must be issued by the end of 2010, when the program expires.

Kling said the commission has already received applications for another $77 million of GO Zone bonds to be considered at the Oct. 21 meeting.

The commission recommended that sponsors of projects with unsold GO Zone bond allocations attend the October meeting to brief the commission on the progress of their efforts.

“We need to find out who is going to sell their bonds and who is not,” said state Treasurer John Kennedy, who chairs the commission. “We’re getting very close to the end.”

The commission also signed off on a competitive general obligation refunding set for Oct. 5. The refunding was approved by the commission earlier this year, but was delayed until the completion of a routine Internal Revenue Service audit of some of the issues to be refunded.

Freda Johnson, president of Government Finance Associates Inc., the commission’s financial adviser, said the size of the refunding issue is yet to be determined.

“We will be running the numbers next week,” she said. “As of mid-August, we were looking at a refunding of slightly less than $375 million, but interest rates have been inching up since then.”

“We may have to restructure the issue, but that decision won’t be made until we’re closer to the sale,” Johnson said.

Louisiana’s tax-supported debt is rated AA by Fitch Ratings, Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service, and AA-minus by Standard & Poor’s.

The $3.4 billion Nucor Corp. facility being financed in part with the GO Zone bonds is a replacement for a pig-iron mill that the state has been pursuing for at least two years.

Nucor chief operating officer John Ferriola said that facility has been put on hold over concerns about a potential federal carbon cap-and-trade. He said the proposed natural gas-fired plant would produce fewer emissions than the deferred pig-iron mill.

Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said the Nucor facility would be one of the largest industrial projects ever built in Louisiana.

Moret said the state would provide $160 million in performance-based grants and a 20-year property tax exemption in addition to the $600 million of GO Zone financing. He said Nucor must complete the five-phase project by 2015 to obtain the full assistance package.

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