Future of Mt. Holly Century Aluminum plant remains unknown

Future of Mt. Holly Century Aluminum plant remains unknown

GOOSE CREEK, SC (WCSC) - The future of hundreds of jobs at the Mt. Holly Century Aluminum plant in Goose Creek is unknown right now.

Thursday morning a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee heard from representatives about a bill to try and keep the plant open.

Century Aluminum currently gets its electricity from Santee Cooper.

Mike Bless, CEO of Century Aluminum, claims the Mt. Holly plant has the highest electric cost of any U.S. smelter, which is hurting business.

"77 percent of aluminum plants, and smelters around the world have a lower power price," Bless said Thursday.

The bill on the table, S. 1211, looks to keep the plant open by allowing the company to buy electricity on an open market, instead of just from Santee Cooper.

"That would bring our power price to about the global median," Bless said.

"I think they're doing what they can do stay open," said Rick Yon, of Goose Creek.

"You have the freedom for anyone to be able to operate, but you have to operate at a cost," added Ryan Tanner, of Moncks Corner.

This is the second bill to travel through parts of the House and Senate.

A bill presented to the House, H. 5226, received no vote a few weeks ago.

Thursday Senators also made no decision.

"This is unprecedented and take note of it if you will," said Republican Horry County Senator Luke Rankin.

Rankin and others on panel said they didn't have enough information on the bill in order to move it forward.

Nor did they have the expertise in a situation like this.

"We're not skilled at negotiations between a utility and a customer," Rankin said. "Such that our question bare any relations on the relief that they're asking for."

Rankin advised Santee and Century officials to meet with each other again to figure this out.

Century Aluminum has already said if the bills do not pass in the House and Senate, they will close the Mt. Holly plant.

In December the company announced it would be able to keep 300 of the 600 jobs.

Right now there are procedures in the works to shut down the facility.

Santee Cooper provide electricity to 700,000 customers across South Carolina.

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