NEW HAVEN — A decision on Felman Production’s proposal filed with the Public Service Commission of West Virginia won’t likely come before the end of the month, according to PSC spokesperson Susan Small.
Small said Wednesday that there is no statutory deadline on this case and further described it as “difficult” in terms of working through a decision when considering legislation, as well as PSC rules.
“We’re closer than we were, but it won’t be this week,” she added.
The filing deadlines for briefs has passed though citizens can still continue to comment.
Members of the United Steelworkers, as well as Felman Production, are anxiously awaiting the PSC’s decision. Hearings were held last December on the proposal that was filed in August 2013. At a December hearing, Commission President Rick Handley testified before the PSC to support the proposal and to relay how closing the plant would have a negative impact on county revenue and local families. At the time of his testimony, Handley said if the plant ceases operations, it could mean 155 lost jobs.
Members of the United Steelworkers gathered outside the Mason County Courthouse last week to fight for those jobs and raise awareness about the forthcoming decision from the PSC. Union members greeted U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and asked for his support. Manchin promised to look into the situation to see what he could do.
Felman idled the plant last year because of poor market conditions. Also last year, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) testified before the International Trade Commission for Felman, asking the agency renew anti-dumping duty orders on imports of silicomanganese from other countries.
As reported by the Associated Press, Felman’s proposal would tie the plant’s power rates to the costs of raw materials used in production and commodity prices. The plan caps the amount of discounts the company could receive in a given year at $9.5 million, which represents the amount of Appalachian Power’s fixed costs the company currently pays. When prices are low, Felman’s power discounts would be paid for by shifting costs to other ratepayers. To make up for those costs, the company said it would pay higher rates when its material costs recovered. That benefit would then be passed on to other customers in the form of a rate decrease.
The company submitted its request for a 10-year special power rate under a 2010 law that was intended to help Century Aluminum restart its plant in Ravenswood. The law allows manufacturers that consume large amounts of energy to negotiate rates tied to commodity prices.
Critics of the proposal include Appalachian Power, which the Associated Press reports has objected to a provision that would allow Felman to carry over the $9.5 million discount from one year to the next. The utility said in testimony filed with the PSC that Felman potentially could go an entire year without paying for power, according to the AP. A spokesperson for Felman told the AP the proposal ensures Felman pays 100 percent of Appalachian Power’s variable costs, mainly for fuel and power generation, during the contract. The discounts would only apply to the $9.5 million in annual fixed cost payments.
According to Felman, the bottom line for the proposal is about sustaining the plant and the jobs.
At least for now, the answer to when and how the PSC will rule, will have to wait.