Noranda Rate Case Resuscitated
Noranda President and CEO Layle K. “Kip” Smith is flanked by elected officials and dignitaries at a press conference in this August, 2014, photo at the New Madrid smelter. SEMO TIMES photo by Steve Hankins
NEW MADRID – In the wake of a recent announcement by the region’s leading employer that could leave as many as 200 Bootheel workers jobless, a state panel might rethink its stance regarding energy costs to the plant.
Layle K. “Kip” Smith, president and chief executive officer of Noranda Aluminum Holding Corp., said the decision by Missouri’s Public Services Commission (PSC) regarding a competitive energy rate is to blame for the impending lay off of between 125 and 200 workers during the next six months.
“You hear about other aluminum smelters shutting down because of high electricity costs, but we’ve long hoped it wouldn’t happen here,” reads a release from Noranda about the rehearing.
“Now I fear the recent job losses at this plant are just the tip of the iceberg if state regulators don’t step in and quickly approve this compromise. The men and woman who show up for their shifts every day are doing everything within their power to make this plant a success. Now is the time for the Missouri Public Service Commission to partner with Noranda and all of our employees to save these jobs. Without the PSC’s help, our families are in danger.”
The company’s request for a decreased power rate was denied by the PSC in August.
The court document asks the PSC “to consider a compromise solution filed Aug. 1, 2014, by the OPC, the Missouri Industrial Energy Consumers, the Missouri Retailers Association and the Consumer Council of Missouri” which the PSC stated it did not consider in its Aug. 20, 2014 order.
Noranda maintains the PSC should consider the OPC proposal because it speaks for “representatives of all” consumer classes.
Smith said the request for a rehearing is “about jobs” and consideration of all parties involved.
He added that if the rehearing request is a success and an affordable rate can be secured, the company would be poised to minimize job cuts.
Meanwhile, Ameren Missouri has asked the PSC to approve a 9.6 percent rate hikestate wide. If approved, the rate hike represents a $10 increase for every average consumer in the state.
Ameren has increased its rates for Missouri customers by 43 percent since 2008. Ameren was slammed recently for these rate hikes by the Fair Energy Rate Action Fund (FERAF).
Former state Sen. Joan Bray, executive director of Consumers Council of Missouri and a member of FERAF, called the electric utility to task, saying Ameren’s “massive rate hikes are crippling families and businesses,” including Noranda.
“The commission should approve this compromise settlement because it will protect consumers,” she said. “If the commission does nothing evidence shows the rates will be even higher for all consumers.”
Barry Aycock, CEO of AgXplore – a leading agriculture specialty company based in Parma – issued this statement following the Office of Public Counsel’s motion for a rehearing in the Noranda rate case.
“As a small business owner in the Bootheel, the loss of Noranda would be devastating to our region and state,” Aycock said. “Noranda contributes $300 million annually to Southeast Missouri’s economy. These layoffs at the plant are real and if the Public Service Commission doesn’t approve this compromise, rates will be higher for all customers.”
The request for rehearing is supported by many elected officials including Governor Nixon; state Sen. Doug Libla and Sen. Gary Romine; state Rep. Steve Hodges and Rep. Todd Richardson; and former state Rep.Dr. Terry Swinger.