Major Hancock County Employer Could Close Doors Over Electricity Costs

Jul 17, 2012

A Hancock County aluminum smelter is warning it might have to shut down its 700-employee operation if it can't negotiate better electric rates. Century Aluminum and power producer Big Rivers Electric Corporation appear to be at an impasse in their efforts to find a solution.

Century says it's suffering from a drop in global aluminum prices combined with last year's electric rate increase by Big Rivers. Hancock County Industrial Foundation Mike Baker told WKU Public Radio losing Century Aluminum would be devastating to the region.

"We've got second and third generation families working in these plants. It's not only a job, but they're much a part of our community. Century's employees are extremely active in our community, and active in our churches and other civic organizations," said Baker.

The Henderson-based Big Rivers Electric Corporation says it doesn't want to shift the extra costs onto its 112-thousand rural residential, commercial, and other customers.

The 500-employee Rio Tinto Alcan in Sebree says it's in a similar bind as Century Aluminum. The two smelters combined consume nearly two-thirds of Big Rivers' power output.