RAVENSWOOD - The reopening of the Century Aluminum Plant in Ravenswood will be delayed as Century and Appalachian Power Co. have not reached an agreement on the cost of electric service to the plant.
The West Virginia Public Service Commission stated it was disappointed that the parties could not reach an agreement regarding the terms and conditions of a special rate to reopen the Century Aluminum plant. However, the PSC said it will have to look into the matter to determine a rate.
''If the parties had presented the commission with an agreed special rate, commission review would have been a more expedited process,'' the press release said. ''However, because there is no agreement in place, the commission is required to investigate, review and consider the positions of all parties in this matter, and that will be a more prolonged and complex proceeding that will delay the commission's ultimate decision.''
Century closed its smelter in Ravenswood in 2009, laying off around 650 workers, and stopped health care coverage for retirees in 2010.
In March, the retirees of Century Aluminum accepted a deal with the company that would restore some of their lost health benefits and open the way for the Jackson County plant to reopen.
Karen Gorrell, who has been a spokesman for the retirees during negotiations, said she was shocked when she first heard the news about Century and Appalachian Power not being able to reach an agreement.
Terms and Conditions
Cost of electric service to Century Aluminum Plant in Ravenswood is tied to plant's reopening.
Plant retirees to receive benefits once the Jackson County plant reopens, officials said.
''The retiree committee has always been under the understanding that Century and AEP had already came to an agreement many months ago, but the agreement would require passage of the recent legislation in Charleston in order to be implemented and also approval by the PSC,'' she said. ''To hear this announcement is very confusing and concerning to all of us.
''The settlement agreement between the retirees and Century is absolutely tied to the restart of the Jackson County plant and benefits will not begin until that milestone is reached,'' Gorrell said.
Gorrell said many retirees remain uninsured and others are being financially drained on low pensions and trying to pay for their own coverage.
''We were led to believe that a restart might be possible by August during the negotiations,'' she said. ''We had urged the company to begin the coverage immediately, to no avail, and Century insisted they would not provide the benefits unless the plant was restarted.
''The urgency to come to an agreement so that the next important steps could be achieved was paramount in our minds during our round of negotiations with Century. We had the weight of the world on our shoulders with the Jackson County community all depending so heavily on all the pieces coming together to ensure the restart of the plant.''
The committee understood the impact the restart would have for so many different arenas in Jackson County and surrounding areas and especially for the laid-off workers that had exhausted their unemployment benefits and were trying to pay mortgages, Gorrell said.
''The struggling business owners and the empty storefronts along Main Street in Ravenswood are a true reminder of the growth opportunities the restart could and should have on Jackson County,'' she said. ''It is now time for the state leaders to move toward Century and AEP once again, only this time demand that they return the hard work and sacrifice others have put forth in making this restart possible on their behalf.''
Gorrell hopes this latest development is just a "stumbling block" that will be dealt with quickly.
Lindsey Berryhill, corporate spokesman for Century Aluminum, could not be reached for comment Monday.