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Power Supplier Still Talking with CFAC

by Staff
The Daily Inter Lake, March 20, 2012

(Lido Vizzutti) A sign directs traffic around the nearly empty parking area at the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company building in Columbia Falls. Bonneville Power Administration is having weekly discussions with Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. to negotiate an energy contract that would restart the shuttered plant, BPA Administrator Stephen Wright said last week.

"We're actively engaged," Wright said. "It's an important issue for us. We're willing to enter into a contract but we want to make sure of the other party's credit-worthiness."

Columbia Falls Aluminum shut down in October 2009 as high energy prices and sagging market conditions made operations unprofitable.

Since then, lawmakers have been pushing Bonneville to seal a power sales agreement with Glencore, CFAC's parent company. Last month U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., pressed Bonneville to finalize the energy contract.

Wright acknowledged that Columbia Falls Aluminum is "in a difficult commodity market," but added that aluminum prices currently "are not terrible."

Last month Baucus met with Wright and asked for a timeline that will lead to a long-term energy agreement. The senator cited the potential for up to 350 good-paying jobs.

Wright acknowledged how important those jobs are.

"We're a public-sector organization and creating jobs is a critical part of the public sector," he said.

Last year Bonneville proposed a power deal that would provide 140 average megawatts to CFAC, enough for two of the aluminum plant's potlines to restart.

An equivalent benefits test done last December to assess the economics of providing power to CFAC indicated a 4 1/2-year contract was feasible, but Bonneville would need a second such test to gauge current market conditions.

"If we take a loss," it's spread throughout the region, ultimately affecting all of Bonneville's power users, Wright said.

Related Pages:
Speculation Ramps Up Over Potential CFAC Reopening by Molly Priddy, Flathead Beacon, 12/14/10

Power Supplier Still Talking with CFAC
The Daily Inter Lake, March 20, 2012

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