Century Aluminum

Becca Schimmel

The Trump administration has made good on a promise to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on some major U.S. trading partners, including the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

The U.S. commerce department exempted the EU, Canada and Mexico from a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum in March. Those exemptions were set to expire in May, but countries were given one more month. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced Thursday the exemptions were expiring and the tariffs will go into effect at midnight. The President is still able to cancel or extend those exemptions.


Becca Schimmel

With sunglasses perched atop his camouflage cap, Brady Carwile filled out an application at a job fair in a community center in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Carwile works at a local auto parts maker but he’s hoping for a maintenance position at Century Aluminum’s Hawesville Smelter.

“It’s one of the best jobs you can find around there,” Carwile said.

Just a few years ago Century was laying workers off, not hiring them on. Century idled 60 percent of its capacity in 2015 and laid off more than 300 workers here. Now that the Trump administration is placing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, Century plans to bring the Hawesville smelter back to full capacity, invest $150 million, and create up to 300 new jobs.


Becca Schimmel

Regional iron and steel industry leaders say they are disappointed by the Trump administration’s delay on a decision about which countries will face new import tariffs. President Trump has postponed until June a decision on which countries will be subject to new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The decision had been due May 1.

Nucor Corporation CEO and president John Ferriola was among the steel and iron industry representatives who discussed the delay in a press briefing on Tuesday. Nucor has facilities in Kentucky and Ohio. Ferriola said the delay is disappointing because it gives other countries more time to undercut domestic producers with unfairly priced goods, a practice known as dumping.


Flickr/Creative Commons/Pete Prodoehl

A company that produces aluminum is adding more than 250 jobs and investing over $100 million to improve one of its smelters in Kentucky.

Gov. Matt Bevin announced Wednesday that Century Aluminum will invest roughly $116.5 million for improvements to the smelter in Hawesville and bring back more than 250 full-time jobs. In the fall 2015, Century closed three potlines and laid off about 320 workers at the smelter in a dispute over electricity prices.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Pete Prodoehl

Century Aluminum Executive Vice President Jesse Gary said his company will begin hiring up to 300 new workers for its Hancock County smelter as soon as a proposed tariff order is signed.

President Trump is expected to announce a 10 percent tariff on aluminum and a 25 percent tariff on steel this week. Century Aluminum said its smelter in Hancock County could be back to full capacity by 2019 if the tariff order is signed.

Becca Schimmel

The Ohio Valley was once synonymous with steel. Even after the industry’s sharp decline the region is still home to many industries that produce or use steel and aluminum. Those industries are closely watching what the Trump administration will do on steel and aluminum imports.

The Department of Commerce has suggested a massive 24 percent global tariff on those imports. As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to apply tariffs. Now, it’s unclear if President Trump will follow through.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Pete Prodoehl

The Hancock County Judge-Executive says he feels “helpless” following the announcement that a major employer plans to sharply reduce operations in late October.

Century Aluminum announced Tuesday that it will idle its smelter in Hawesville unless there is a major rebound in the price of aluminum on the open market.

The smelter employs 565 people. In an email Wednesday, Century Aluminum Human Resources Manager Kenny Barkley said the company would keep “around a dozen” workers at the Hawesville plant if it’s idled this fall.

Hancock County Judge-Executive Jack McCaslin said there’s nothing anybody in the region can do about the market forces impacting the price of aluminum.

“It’s a commodity. Metals are just like soybeans and corn and everything else. So the markets dictate how much stuff is worth. I can’t change the markets.”

Big Rivers Electric Corporation plans to sell wholesale power to Nebraska customers in hopes of cutting costs to current customers.

Big Rivers has lost about two-thirds of its revenue after aluminum smelters in Hawesville and Sebree stopped purchasing power.  Since then, the Kentucky Public Service Commission has twice approved rate increases.

Big Rivers Spokesman Marty Littrel says revenue from Nebraska contracts will help pay a portion of Big River’s fixed operating costs.

“The benefit to west Kentucky is the fact that we have been able to land a deal that we anticipate – we’re not sure, it’s still early – but we think it’s projected to provide our members, which again are the consumers, a $65 million benefit over the life of the agreement," explained Littrel.

Big Rivers has around 114,000 Kentucky customers. The company will begin selling wholesale power to around 11,000 Nebraska customers in 2018.

Union workers at a western Kentucky aluminum smelter have ratified a new contract which ends a month-long work stoppage. 

About 560 employees of Century Aluminum have been locked out of the Hawesville plant because of a contract dispute between Century and the United Steelworkers Local 9423.  

The union posted on its website that its members voted 68 percent in favor of the five-year agreement on Thursday.  The contract includes pay raises and fixed insurance premiums, among other things. 

Union members will report back to work at the plant Monday morning.

Century Aluminum Reaches Five Year Deal With Union

Jul 23, 2014

A Webster County aluminum smelter and its workers have reached a new, five-year collective bargaining agreement covering about 400 hourly workers.

The deal between Century Aluminum Sebree LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Century Aluminum Co., and the United Steelworkers Local 9443-00 is effective through October 28, 2019.

Sebree's plant manager, Jason Young, says the deal will keep the plant competitive in the aluminum market.

Century acquired the smelter in June 2013 from Rio Tinto Alcan.

Commission Approves Agreements on Hancock County Smelter

Jan 31, 2014

The Kentucky Public Service Commission has approved agreements that Century Aluminum of Kentucky says are necessary to keep operating a western Kentucky smelter.  

The agreements allow the smelter to be supplied power purchased on the open market by Kenergy Corp. rather than power generated by Big Rivers Electric Corp.

The PSC said in its order Thursday that the agreements are substantially the same as those it approved in August for the Century smelter in Hawesville.

The Hawesville smelter has about 700 employees and the Sebree smelter about 500.

Big Rivers has a pending rate increase request to compensate for revenue it will lose when it is no longer producing power sold to the Sebree smelter. In October, Big Rivers was granted a rate adjustment to compensate for lost revenue from the Hawesville smelter.

Three industries have filed notice that they intend to appeal a recent decision allowing Big Rivers Electric Corp. to increase rates.
   
Last month, the Kentucky Public Service Commission approved agreements allowing Century Aluminum - the utility's biggest customer - to leave the Big Rivers system and purchase power on the open market. That led Big Rivers to request a rate increase for its remaining 112,000 customers in western Kentucky.
   
The PSC hasn't approved the increase, but it did allow the utility to begin charging higher rates subject to refunding customers money if a smaller hike is approved.
   
The Gleaner reports that Kentucky Industrial Utility Customers filed the notice of appeal with Franklin Circuit Court on behalf of Kimberly Clark paper mill, Domtar paper mill and Aleris aluminum rolling mill.

An aluminum smelter in Hancock County will be supplied with electric power purchased on the open market under a plan announced Wednesday by the Kentucky Public Service Commission.

Century Aluminum of Hawesville says it needed the arrangement in order to remain open. The smelter employs 700 workers and has traditionally purchased power generated by Big Rivers Electric Corporation in Henderson. But Century officials say using electric power purchased on the open market by Kenergy Corporation will be much cheaper.

The PSC said in a statement that the plan tries to achieve a “delicate balance” between keeping the Hawesville smelter open and not imposing high costs on Big Rivers customers beyond those that would occur if Century Aluminum closed.

The new agreement will go into effect Aug. 20.

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.

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