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BPA to Extend Intalco Power Deal One Year

by John Stark
Bellingham Herald, October 7, 2010

The Bonneville Power Administration has announced its intention to offer a one-year power supply extension to the Alcoa Intalco Works aluminum smelter west of Ferndale that would help to secure the facility's 500 jobs through May 2012.

Intalco's current power deal with the federal agency had been set to expire a year earlier, in May 2011.

Intalco workers have been living with job insecurity for years as Alcoa, BPA and other power users wrangled over how much cheap hydroelectric power should be allotted to the smelter here, and under what terms. The company's use of 320 megawatts of power is roughly equivalent to one-fourth the power consumption of the city of Seattle.

Some public utility district officials argue that BPA should reserve its limited supply of cheap Columbia River hydropower for them. But BPA Administrator Steve Wright has argued that the Intalco smelter is a net economic benefit to the region, creating an estimated 1,500 indirect jobs in addition to the direct payroll of about 500.

Because of their huge appetite for power, aluminum smelters can't operate profitably without cheap power sources. In an earlier era of abundant hydropower, smelters flourished across the Northwest. Most of those smelters shut down during the power crisis of 2000-01. Intalco was idle too for a time, but it managed to reopen and maintain production at about two-thirds capacity.

The power contract extension won't be official until other power users in the region have a chance to comment on it.

BPA is also in the process of trying to work out a longer-term deal that would make smelter operations more of a long-term proposition. U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, said the long-term deal remains key.

"It's great news that BPA is moving forward to extend this contract for a year," Larsen said. "It will be even better news when a long-term contract is established and finalized."

Related Pages:
BPA, Alcoa Sign Power Contract by Staff, BPA Journal, 1/10
Officials: Loss of Intalco Would Have Been Hit to Taxpayers by Sam Taylor, The Bellingham Herald, 12/27/9
Alcoa's Intalco Works gets Power Contract by Christine Pratt, Wenatchee World, 12/23/9
Power Contract Gives Lifeline To Big Smelter by Tom Banse, KUOW, 12/22/9
BPA Seals Power Deal with Alcoa Intalco Works Plant by Staff, KGMI, 12/22/9
Alcoa, BPA Reach Accord for Smelter Helping Secure 528 Jobs by Business Wire, Earth Times, 12/21/9
Intalco Smelter gets Breathing Room, Support on Power Deal by John Stark, The Bellingham Herald, 12/21/9
Gregoire, BPA Boss to Visit Intalco Monday by John Stark, The News Tribune, 12/19/9

John Stark
BPA to Extend Intalco Power Deal One Year
Bellingham Herald, October 7, 2010

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