OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) - Big Rivers Electric Corp. says it will idle a western Kentucky power plant on February 1, and a second power plant will cease operating by June 1.
The actions come in the wake of Big Rivers’ two largest customers leaving after the entities couldn’t come to terms on electric rates.
The loss of the aluminum smelters in Hawesville and Sebree has also led to higher electric rates for the other 112,000 customers in 22 counties in western Kentucky. Corporate officials at the smelters, which employ a total of about 1,200 workers, said leaving the Big Rivers system allowed them to keep operating.
Big River spokesman Marty Littrel told the Messenger-Inquirer (https://bit.ly/1dPrJg0) that about 188 positions will be eliminated when the plants go off-line, which will affect the entire company due to collective bargaining agreements. He said the current 58 vacant positions “will lessen the blow some.”
“We’re doing our best to deal with this in the best way we can,” he said. “Our employees have been very dedicated and loyal. Our plant performance has continued to be outstanding.”
Officials in Hancock and Ohio counties say that the idling of the power plants will take a big bite out of the local economy directly and indirectly.
Judge-Executive Jack McCaslin said the jobs lost in Hancock County will be hard to replace, but he’s even more worried about power transmission capacity.
“Another big blow to us is that the closing of the power plant means the availability of power to recruit another industry is shot,” McCaslin said. “I don’t think they could restart for just one industry. It kind of takes our area out of the recruiting business. And we have two to three good industrial sites.”
Ohio County Judge-Executive David Johnston said the Wilson plant’s closing will have two significant impacts.
“Several of our people will be unemployed, and our local coal mines supplied about one-fourth of the coal they used,” Johnston said. “We wish it wouldn’t close, and we’ve kept in touch with the Big Rivers folks and told them that as a community, if there is anything we can do to help, we will gladly do it.”
Information from: Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, https://www.messenger-inquirer.com
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