Century issues WARN notice to Sebree, KY smelter workers - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Century issues WARN notice to Sebree, KY smelter workers

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Century Aluminum has issued a conditional notice to employees at the Sebree aluminum smelter in Robards, Ky. of its intent to stop all plant operations Jan. 31, 2014 "if the plant cannot secure a competitively priced electric power contract."

Century's spokesman said in a statement for media in Kentucky the company is preparing to move its 500-employee Sebree plant to a market-priced energy arrangement.

In mid-April, the company issued a similar notice to its Hawesville, Ky. employees.

Conditional notices must be made because of the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN Act.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission approved a rate increase Oct. 29 for customers of Big Rivers Electric Corp., which wanted the increase to help insulate the loss of Century Aluminum's Hawesville smelter.

The Hawesville smelter consumed about 40 percent of the power generated by Big Rivers before the company's relationship with the utility ended in August because of a plan to purchase electricity on the open market.

The Sebree smelter is scheduled to leave the Big Rivers system in January, and according to the company's federal Securities Exchange Commission filing about its Sebree conditional notice to employees, "the company is continuing to work with its power provider and regulatory agencies to obtain access to market-priced power prior to the expiration of its current energy contract."

The Kentucky PSC authorized Big Rivers Electric Corp. to seek an additional $54.2 million annually from customers, which is about $20 million less than what Big Rivers requested and will increase the average customer's monthly bill by about $17.

Century told media in Kentucky the Hawesville deal could serve as the model to keep the Sebree smelter open. The company acquired the Sebree smelter from Rio Tinto Alcan in early June.

During the company's July earnings call, CEO Mike Bless said the company was "confident that, assuming Hawesville's power contract is approved, we would be able to move this plant to an arrangement similar to Hawesville's pending contract."

Century was engaged in a lengthy rate hearing in West Virginia last summer, and has not moved forward with power rate negotiations to reopen its Ravenswood smelter. The Jackson County plant closed in 2009 and left 650 people out of work.

Century's next earnings call is scheduled for Nov. 4.