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1,000 Ormet jobs at stake due to limited funds for electric bills
Updated: Wednesday, July 24 2013, 06:46 PM EDT
By Briona Arradondo
BELMONT and MONROE COUNTIES, Ohio ---
New developments put 1,000 jobs on the line for Ormet plant workers in Belmont and Monroe counties since the company filed bankruptcy in February. The Hannibal plant officials said they don’t have enough money to pay bills to continue operations.
United Steelworkers Representative John Puskar, of the St. Clairsville office, updated Belmont County commissioners on the reality they face Wednesday during a meeting. About $90 million used to pay for electric costs to produce aluminum are drying up, and 60 percent of operational costs are electric, Puskar said.
A sale agreement with Smelter Acquisition, a Wayzata Investment Partners subsidiary, is contingent upon a power agreement with the Public Utilities Commission (PUCO), an agency headed by Governor John Kasich, Puskar said. Ormet already submitted a long-term plan to generate its own electricity to pay the bills, and July 31 agreement deadline looms over the bankrupt plant, officials said. The company can bail out if there's no deal for the electric costs, Puskar said.
"It's 1,000 good jobs (at stake) for the area,” said Puskar. “We just lost 1,600 here with Wheeling-Pittsburgh Corrugating, and we don't want this to happen to Ormet."
A bankruptcy judge heard the case Tuesday in Delaware and granted Ormet officials the right to shut down one or four currently operating lines to save money.
“If we don't have a deal by the end of August, then I'm not sure what's going to happen. I'm not privy to that information, but the money is running out," said Puskar.
Ormet is American Electric Power Ohio's largest customer in the state, and they stand to lose money, according to Puskar.
NEWS9’s Briona Arradondo contacted AEP officials about the situation. Fay White, spokesperson for AEP Ohio, said “We are in a special arrangement with Ormet in terms of their account. We continue to support Ormet and ask for Ormet to comply with the arrangement in place. We are not trying to make the situation more difficult. But, at the same time, we don't want to hurt our customers or our interest in process."
Belmont County commissioners asked Puskar if there is anything they can do to help. He said, “Yes, you write the governor or contact the governor. He's in charge of PUCO, and (you) ask him how he's going to save 1,000 jobs."
Representatives said AEP, the governor’s office, JobsOhio agency and the PUCO officials are all aware of the situation. Puskar said if the deal doesn't go through and there's no one lined up to buy, the plant will shut down.