Daviess County Lawmakers Sponsoring Bills to Help Keep Region's Smelter Jobs

Feb 10, 2013

Workers at the Century Aluminum smelter in Hawesville, a major employer in that region.

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.

Citing the loss of Century Aluminum, Big Rivers then filed for a rate increase, saying the utility needed to make up about $74 million a year in lost revenue.

Big Rivers filed for a rate increase last month with the Kentucky Public Service Commission, something that would cost the average Kenergy cooperative member's monthly bill to increase about $24 a month.

The legislation filed by Sen. Bowen and Rep. Thompson would take away Big Rivers' exclusive right to provide power to Century Aluminum, and would allow Century to purchase power from any supplier.

"Century has given notice that it will lock its doors," Bowen told the Messenger-Inquirer. "This is a lasso to them to save jobs...This reels them back in and least stay in business in Hancock County. We don't need to lose any jobs."