RAVENSWOOD - The Century Aluminum retirees were caught off guard by the company's decision this week not to restart its smelter under the current ruling by the West Virginia Public Service Commission.
The company attempted to obtain a utility rate structure through the commission that would have allowed for the restart of the Ravenswood plant and for operation for several years to come.
The commission released a 70-page decision recently stating the risks for opening the plant would be shifted from power customers to the company and requires Century to ensure the payment of any shortfalls with Appalachian Power.
The company said the decision was not sufficient enough for a smelter restart at this time. Century is discussing modifications that would permit a restart and plans to file a motion for reconsideration with the PSC.
The restoration of benefits to the retirees, agreed to earlier this year, depends on the plant being back in operation.
''We are sorry to say that even though we have faced many roadblocks along the way, that Century's recent decision felt like a knock-out punch,'' said Karen Gorrell, spokesman for the Century retirees. ''Even though nothing Century would do should shock us, we must say that we were totally caught off guard.''
Many people throughout the area felt betrayed by Century, she said.
''Betrayal of people that serve them well appears to be common nature for Century executives,'' Gorrell said. ''They have dangled health care benefits and restoration of lost jobs in front of the retirees and the state like a piece of meat - just beyond our reach.
''We have all rallied around Century and their new leadership team hoping that if we were all united for a common purpose, each willing to sacrifice a little, and willing to meet in the middle on common ground, that we would achieve that fairy tale outcome that we all have strived so hard to accomplish,'' she said.
Manufacturing jobs that offer a living wage and decent benefits are becoming a thing of the past, Gorrell said.
''We were all very sincere in our hopes of bringing those jobs back to Jackson County,'' she said.
The retirees felt people throughout the state, the governor, the Legislature, the commissioners at the PSC, the retirees and many others have worked overtime to bring this together and make it possible for Century to restart this plant and remain competitive for the long haul, Gorrell said.
''It is impossible to reason why Century would turn their backs on all who have worked so tremendously hard to help them,'' she said.