The legislative session is over without a resolution from the Capital on the future of an aluminum smelter in Goose Creek.
According to the Berkeley Independent, Century Aluminum had been counting on the state legislature to pass a bill that would allow the company’s Mount Holly facility to buy all of its electric power on the open market. Smelters require enormous amount of power to operate.
Century has been in a dispute for several years with state-owned power utility Santee Cooper over its rates. Santee Cooper officials respond they have been giving the company reduced rates for years and any further reductions would begin to have negative impacts on its other ratepayers.
Bills were introduced in both chambers of the state legislature that would allow Century purchase its power from other utilities and transmit it through Santee Cooper lines. However legislators were reluctant to get involved in a contract dispute and neither proposal made it out of committee.
Century has argued it cannot compete without the open market prices and may be forced to close the smelter. The company has already laid off 300 employees and scaled back its operations significantly.
The current deal that allows Century to buy the other 75 percent of the electricity it needs to keep the smelter running expires at the end of August. The company is required to give Santee Cooper a 60-day notice to cancel its contract.