A coalition of western Kentucky businesses and residents has formed in hopes of minimizing the fallout of an electricity rates deal between Big Rivers Electric Co-Op and western Kentucky aluminum smelters.
The coalition is worried the deal will lead to higher utility bills for residents and businesses.
Aluminum prices have been low in the past few years, and across Kentucky, aluminum smelters have sought to save money on their electricity bills.
Earlier this year, Big Rivers cut a deal with two Western Kentucky smelters, allowing them to buy their electricity on the open market. The smelters said the change was necessary to stay in business, but the deal cost the electric company more than half of its customer base.
To make up for that, Big Rivers is asking the Kentucky Public Service Commission to approve a 30 percent rate increase for its remaining customers.
Century Aluminum in Hancock County and Big Rivers Electric Corporation have reached a tentative agreement that will allow the electricity supplier to buy market-priced power for the Hawesville smelter.
The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer reports Century Aluminum also announced today that it is purchasing the Webster County smelter Sebree Works-Rio Tinto Alcan.
The moves appear to at least stabilize the aluminum industry in the northwestern Kentucky region, which employs about 1,200 people.
Legislation introduced in both the Kentucky House and Senate is designed to help keep aluminum smelter jobs in the northwestern Kentucky region of Daviess, Henderson, Hancock, and Webster counties.
The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer reports Sen. Joe Bowen and Rep. Tommy Thompson, both of Daviess County, have introduced identical bills in their respective chambers. Bowen told the newspaper the legislation is aimed at allowing Century Aluminum in Hawesville to buy electricity on the open wholesale electricity market.
That is currently not allowed under state law.
Last summer, Century, which employs 700 workers, announced it would shutter its smelter unless either the price of metal went up or its electric rates dropped. The smelter terminated its contract with Henderson-based Big Rivers Electric Corp. Before that, Century was Big Rivers largest customer.