Members of the public who would be impacted by a potential rate increase by Big Rivers Electric Corporation have opportunities to speak out this week. The Kentucky Public Service Commission is holding meetings in Owensboro and Henderson, and a chance for Brandenburg residents to link via video conferencing.
The Henderson-based Big Rivers wants approval for a rate adjustment that will raise $74.5 million dollars in increased revenue. The possible 20 percent increase would account for an extra $24 per month for the average customer. Industrial customers would see nearly 17 percent rate increases.
The utility says most of that new revenue is needed to offset the loss of the Century Aluminum smelter in Hawesville, which will cease to be a Big Rivers client in mid-August. Big Rivers provides power to a region extending from Meade County through Owensboro and Henderson and into Paducah in far western Kentucky.
The Public Service Commission will hold two meetings this Thursday for public comments on the proposed rate hike. The first is at South Middle School in Henderson at 1 p.m., and the second will be at the Owensboro Community and Technical College that evening at 5:30.
Big Rivers customers in the Brandenburg area can watch the Owensboro meeting via a video-conference at Meade County High School starting at 6:30 p.m. eastern.
The Henderson Gleaner reports that United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts was one of 14 people arrested at Tuesday's rally in Henderson featuring current and former coal miners.
The group was arrested after staging a sit-down in the middle of the intersection at First and Main Streets following the 90 minute rally at the Henderson County courthouse.
The Gleaner estimates a crowd of around 2,000 showed up for the rally against recent actions by Patriot Coal Corp. Patriot announced it was cutting pension payments to thousands of retirees, something upheld last week by a federal bankruptcy judge.
Miners and their supporters accuse Patriot's parents companies, Peabody Energy Corp., and Arch Coal, of spinning off Patriot and shifting the pension packages of former workers to the new company, knowing it would eventually go bust.
A planned protest by the United Mine Workers of America Tuesday in Henderson is expected to attract at least 30 busloads of supporters from around the midwest and Appalachian regions.
Protesters are angry about Patriot Coal Corporation's move to end its contract and reduce wages and benefits for active union members. Several lawmakers, including Greenville Democratic Rep. Brent Yonts, will speak at the rally Tuesday morning at the Henderson County Courthouse.
"The main points I'm going to talk about deal with the tragedy of the thousands of these coal miners who have given their sweat, blood, and souls producing energy for this country, and are now having the rugs pulled out from under them in their retirement years," says the Muhlenberg County Democrat.
Sen. Dorsey Ridley will also speak at Tuesday's rally. He represents coal counties such as Henderson, Union and Webster, and says coal executives shouldn't be allowed to shirk their responsibilities when it comes to giving current and former workers what is owed to them.
"It's the responsibility of those who are in power to take care of those who work for them," says Ridley. "Promises were made, and promises need to be kept. Period."
Gov. Steve Beshear joined local and company officials Wednesday in announcing that Gibbs Die Casting is expanding operations at its world headquarters in Henderson, adding 160 jobs and investing more than $22.8 million.
Gibbs Die Casting, established in 1965 and owned by Koch Enterprises, has grown into one of the world’s largest die casting companies, operating eight factories for aluminum and magnesium casting, machining, assembly and die building with facilities in Hungary, Brazil and China. The Henderson facility currently employs more than 560 people.
The expansion project includes adding new manufacturing lines for eight-speed transmission parts and rear axles for the automotive industry.
Some senior citizens in our listening area have been the targets of a scam involving promises of a free medical alert system.
The Better Business Bureau office that serves Louisville, southern Indiana, and western Kentucky says the scammers tell those who pick up that someone has ordered them a free medical alert system, and that the call is intended to confirm shipping instructions.
"So then the person on the line is to told to press a button to speak to a customer service representative, and that person actually asks them for their personal information, including their credit card number for shipping fees,” says Reanna Smith-Hamblin, from the Better Business Bureau.
Reanna Smith-Hamblin with the Better Business Burea says it appears the scam is originating from an automated dialing system that can place thousands of calls a day. Smith-Hamblin advises anyone getting such calls to immediately hang up the phone.
Your online purchases could alleviate some of Kentucky's budget woes.
The federal legislation that allows states to collect sales taxes from more online retailers would benefit the Kentucky state budget, argues a policy group focused on economic policy.
If such legislation passed, Kentucky could gain $130 million to $200 million in revenue per year, the state's Blue Ribbon Tax Commission has estimated.
That sort of money could lead to a restoration to programs that have recently been cut, including the child care subsidy for low-incoming, working families, says Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.
The new revenue wouldn't be a miracle fix for the state budget, Bailey says, but it could reverse some serious cuts made the last few years.
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.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear Wednesday announced a $66 million expansion at Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products in Warren County.
The move includes 100 new full-time jobs and an additional 87,000 square feet at the plant outside Bowling Green, where employees build aluminum suspension products for the automotive industry.
Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said Kobe's announcement is a shot in the arm for the region.
"Kobe has been a great corporate citizen for the past eight years, and we look forward to continuing this relationship long into the future," said Wilkerson. "We congratulate them on their decision to expand here again and send well wishes for their continued growth."
Kobe first opened its Warren County facility in 2005, and currently employs 270 full-time workers.