NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The head of steelmaker Nucor Corp. indicated Thursday that the possible cost of any carbon legislation that emerges from Congress is still a key concern as the company decides whether to build a pig iron plant in Louisiana or South America.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based company is considering a site near Convent in St. James Parish — along with another in Brazil — for the $2.1 billion project that would initially employ 500 people at an annual average salary of $75,000. It would be one of Louisiana's largest economic development projects ever.

During a conference call with investment analysts, Chief Executive Dan DiMicco said the company was still waiting to get needed environmental permits in Louisiana, which have been the target of a lawsuit. He did not give any sort of a timetable for when a decision would be made.

"We're sitting here waiting to see what our enlightened Congress does with global warming legislation," said DiMicco, a critic of programs to sell and trade credits for carbon emissions.

DiMicco has said that a U.S. cap-and-trade system would add major costs to domestic steel manufacturing and would be an unfair burden — as well as do little for the environment — if foreign competitors, such as those in Brazil, do not face the same restrictions.

On Thursday, Nucor recorded a third-quarter loss of $29.5 million, or 10 cents per share, reflecting a broad decline in the steel industry. The company earned $734.6 million, or $2.31 per share, during the same period a year earlier, when robust sales from newly acquired steel and scrap-metal companies bolstered results.

Like other steel companies, Nucor has grappled with weaker orders from major customers in the automotive, construction and equipment industries since the global economy deteriorated late last year.

Louisiana economic development officials have said that Nucor has bought 90 percent of the land it would need in Convent. Nucor has said it prefers the Louisiana site. The state is offering a yet-to-be-disclosed economic incentive package for the company, which is considering a site rejected by German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp AG in favor of one near Mobile, Ala., in 2007.