CFAC wants BPAby Heidi Desch
Hungry Horse News, August 30, 2006
Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. officials recently said they would rather receive power than subsidies from Bonneville Power Administration.
BPA is currently looking at future power rates and hosted a meeting in Missoula to take comments on its long-term policy proposal. About 50 people including officials from CFAC attended.
BPA and CFAC inked a deal in June that would keep power benefits flowing for the next five years, but BPA is now looking beyond that.
Currently, BPA subsidizes power costs for CFAC and other aluminum producers in the Northwest. It allows producers to receive benefits based on a locked-in rate for a multiyear period.
BPA provides a $12 per megawatt hour credit for 140 megawatts of electricity to CFAC in a deal struck earlier this year. CFAC can also double that credit by making it $24 per megawatt hour for 70 megawatts.
Under the current contract CFAC could see about $14.7 million annually.
But CFAC still has to go out on the open market and buy the power - it can't get it from the BPA.
Company officials would like to see that change.
BPA's has not made a service proposal for the time beyond 2011 for aluminum companies, but is looking at possible approaches for the future. BPA is proposing 20-year contracts for supply.
Alternatives being considered include extending monetary benefits similar to those in current contracts, ending benefits or providing physical power.
Steve Knight, CFAC general manager, said the company would prefer physical power to a financial approach that would only "work as a stop gap."
"I don't believe that is appropriate or would serve for the future," he said.
He noted that CFAC employs 160 people and is important to the Flathead Valley.
(bluefish does the math: $14.7 million per year / 160 employees = $91,875 / employee year)
"Our desire is to offer high paying jobs," he said. "We need Bonneville not to turn us away."
Greg Jones, president of the steelworkers union at CFAC, also encouraged BPA officials to remember that CFAC has "some of the best paying jobs in the Flathead Valley."
"CFAC needs cost-based power to operate," he said. "We encourage BPA to offer CFAC another contract."
BPA intends to conduct at least one public meeting specific for power contracts for aluminum producers.
The policy proposal is available on the BPA's Web site at www.bpa.gov/power/pl/regionaldialogue/07-2006_policy_proposal.pdf. Comments will be taken through Sept. 29. Those can be submitted at www.bpa.gov/comment, by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to P.O. Box 14428, Portland, OR 97293-4428.
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