Century Aluminum says Hawesville plant will close Aug. 20 withou - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Century Aluminum says KY plant will close Aug. 20 without competitive power

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Century Aluminum issued a conditional notice to its Hawesville, Ky., employees April 16 that 100 percent of its plant operations would be stopped Aug. 20 "if the plant cannot secure a competitively priced power contract," according to a statement from the company.

The announcement was made because of the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN Act.

Century also gave conditional notice that its supply contract with its largest customer, the Southwire Company, also could be terminated because of the potential Aug. 20 plant closure.

Century's current power contract with Big Rivers Electric Corporation expires Aug. 20.

"Hawesville is an excellent plant, with a dedicated and highly skilled work force and a world class customer base," Century President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Bless said in a prepared statement. "We deeply regret the need to issue these notices at this time, and understand the uncertainty this action will cause our valued employees, our local communities and our longstanding partners at Southwire.

"We remain resolved to finding a solution that will support the plant's continuing operations, and are discussing with the power provider an arrangement that we firmly believe will have no impact on any other ratepayer in the state – today, or in the future."

Bless said Century would ask Kentucky's leaders to intervene with a solution "to avoid the catastrophic economic impact a plant closure would have on countless communities in western Kentucky."

"These efforts, coupled with a market-based power price, will provide the basis for Hawesville to operate for many years to come," Bless said.

The Kentucky General Assembly worked on two bills that would have given aluminum smelters the ability to get power on the open market – measures the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky Association of Manufacturers and Kentucky Resource Council all said they did not support.

Both bills died when Kentucky's legislature adjourned March 26.

The WARN notice specifies that the plant will be curtailed unless the company can gain access to competitively priced electric power.

The Hawesville smelter is located in Hancock County and employs about 750 people.

Big Rivers Electric Spokesman Marty Littrell said April 16 his company is still in negotiations with Century, and even met that day.

"I'm limited on what I can say about the meeting due to confidentiality agreements, but we plan to continue meeting with Century officials to work out a condition that keeps the smelter open within reason," Littrell said. 

Century also has struggled with settling on an agreeable power rate to reopen its Ravenswood smelter in West Virginia, which closed in 2009 and put about 650 people out of work.

Littrell said Century's electric rate from Big Rivers last year was about 36 percent below the U.S. industrial average, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Bless said during a Feb. 21 earnings call that Century was "working hard in Kentucky." The next earnings call is scheduled for April 25.