RAVENSWOOD, West Virginia — A Century Aluminum smelter in Jackson County that has sat idle for more than six years will not be restarted following an unsuccessful attempt to obtain a special electricity rate for the plant, the company said.
Chicago-based Century said aluminum market conditions, driven largely by increased aluminum exports from China, also was a factor in the decision to permanently close the plant, effective immediately.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said they are disappointed by Century's announcement, and that they hope the company will fulfill its commitments to retirees.
Tomblin also said he asked Century officials to reconsider their decision.
The plant in Ravenswood employed more than 650 workers when Century idled it in 2009.
Century asked the West Virginia Public Service Commission in 2012 to approve a special power rate that would be adjusted quarterly based on the global price of aluminum. The Legislature approved a tax credit program that year aimed at helping Century restart the plant.
Century rejected a plan proposed by the PSC that would have allowed a special electricity rate for up to 10 years. The plan also would have kept Century ultimately responsible for making up the difference between the rate and the actual costs. The PSC denied Century's request to reconsider the proposal.
"We have worked diligently with local, state and federal officials, along with the power company, to reopen the smelter but we have been unable to secure a long-term, competitive power contract," Century CEO Michael Bless said in the company's news release. "We are convinced that all of these parties did everything within their ability to support our efforts to restart the Ravenswood smelter, and we are grateful for their commitment. We deeply regret the impact of this action on our employees and on the local community, and share in the profound disappointment."
Republican Delegate Michael Ihle, who also is mayor of Ravenswood, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail (http://bit.ly/1Ip60VQ ) that the plant's closure is "a mere formality at this point."
"We are all disappointed that Century has closed the door on being part of the Ravenswood community," Ihle said. "This news surprises no one who has been paying attention. If the heart demonstrated by former employees and retirees had anything to do with it, Century would have come back years ago. Unfortunately, political and economic factors were far bigger than our small town."
Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.