- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (AP) - Century Aluminum is working to strike a deal allowing it to keep its Goose Creek plant operating at half capacity while state lawmakers work on legislation to allow large industries to buy power on the open market.

Century president and CEO Mike Bless tells The Post and Courier of Charleston (https://bit.ly/1Qsl3Yp ) he is negotiating with Century’s suppliers to reduce power costs so the plant can operate for six months through another legislative session.

Century has said it plans to shutter the plant employing 600 by year’s end unless it can reach a new contract with Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state-owned utility. The company has already started closing down one of the two lines that make aluminum at the plant.

Century wants to buy all its power from out of state and pay Santee Cooper to transmit it. Santee Cooper says it can’t agree to a rate that would increase costs for its other industrial customers.

Bless said operating at half capacity would cause the company to lose money but also give lawmakers a chance to craft legislation. Bless said the company might be willing to “work our way through that loss” if lawmakers can find a solution.

State Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Goose Creek, said he is working with other lawmakers to keep the plant open but said any legislation to help Century would also apply to other large industrial power customers and could hurt Santee Cooper.

The $400 million the utility’s industrial customers paid for power in 2014 is more than its 172,000 residential customers paid.

“If the Legislature wishes to address relief measures for Century, the six-month-out provision in our contract offer would give Century the ability to continue operations through the 2016 legislative session,” the utility said in a statement. “Santee Cooper applauds this legislative outreach to Century and again urges Century’s leadership to take the offer.”

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Information from: The Post and Courier, https://www.postandcourier.com

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