CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Public Service Commission on Monday asked for additional detail on its Consumer Advocate Division's counter-proposal in Century Aluminum's special power rate case.
The head of the division said he hoped this was a sign the commission was giving thought to alternatives to the controversial proposal Century officials have offered.
"The optimist in me says they're sincerely considering my proposal," Byron Harris said. "But the realist in me says they may be just trying to clarify the details of our proposal."
The commission asked Monday for more clarification on how Harris' plan would use up to $20 million in annual tax credits designed to lower Century's power bill.
Century wants the PSC to approve a special rate plan to help it reopen the Ravenswood plant, which shut down in 2009 following a dramatic plunge in aluminum prices.
The tax credits are just one tool lawmakers, company officials and regulators have proposed to help ease power costs for the idled plant.
The Consumer Advocate Division's plan is one of three proposals offered in the case.
Century's proposal is designed to last 10 years and consists of three parts.
The first uses $20 million in annual tax credits for Century's power providers that would be passed on to Century in the form of lower rates. Those credits were approved by the Legislature earlier this year.
The second would have other ratepayers continuing to pay $17.3 million per year in fixed costs passed on to them by Appalachian Power when the Century plant closed.
The third part is the most controversial. It would have other ratepayers pick up the tab for some of Century's power costs when aluminum prices fell.
Critics have said ratepayers should not be forced to subsidize Century's power bill.
During hearings in July, PSC Chairman Michael Albert asked Appalachian Power regulatory services director Steven Ferguson to draft a modified version of Century's plan.