PARKERSBURG - Retirees trying to get health insurance benefits restored from Century Aluminum are doubting the company is serious about reopening the closed Ravenswood plant, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
Karen Gorrell of Mineral Wells was responding to a request for comment about the West Virginia Public Service Commission deciding on Dec. 14 to reconsider or clarify Century's case for a special utility rate from Appalachian Power. The commission last month rejected Century's proposal and instead offered its own recommendation, to which the company said it was insufficient for the reopening of the smelter in Ravenswood.
The issue is the risks placed upon customers of Appalachian Power, according to the commission.
"Even though we are desperate for our settlement agreement to be effective, we can not support any burden being placed on other citizens in the state, many of which are our friends and neighbors," Gorrell said.
"We wanted and encouraged our state leaders to support Century in any way they could, but now it is up to Century to decide if they are truly serious about restarting the Jackson County plant," she said. "We are beginning to doubt that they are. It is incredibly insensitive for Century to dangle our benefits in front of us and build up the hopes of the laid of employees."
A spokesman for the company was not immediately available.
The plant closed in 2009 affecting about 650 workers. Retirees later lost all insurance benefits from the company.
"This ordeal is just about to wear us out," Gorrell said. "Almost a year ago, the retirees were praying for a Christmas miracle and we really began to believe that we would see one."
Retirees are still waiting, she said.
"Bottom line is that we are very cautiously hopeful that a "fair" resolution can be obtained between Century, (Appalachian Power) and the PSC that will not place a risk of burden on rate payers, many of which are on fixed incomes," Gorrell said. "Even though we are desperate for our settlement agreement to be effective, we can not support any burden being placed on other citizens in the state, many of which are our friends and neighbors."
The company proposed a rate structure tied to the price of aluminum. The commission in October proposed an alternative plan shifting the risks from customers to the company.
Rates would be based upon the price of aluminum. After a 10-year period, overpayments of up to $200 million would be used for rate reductions for other customers and over payments above $200 million would be split 75 percent to the company and 25 percent to reduce power rates.