Democratic state Rep. Tommy Thompson of Owensboro, who sponsored the bill, explained that the legislation does not mean deregulation of Kentucky's electricity market. He said the bill is narrow enough to only apply to the two smelters in western Kentucky and save jobs. Dozens of people wearing yellow shirts supporting the bill filled much of the room where the committee met.
Mark Bailey, Big Rivers' president and CEO, said the loss of such a big industrial customer will spike rates for residential customers by about 19 percent, increasing an average bill of $84 to $100. But Bailey contended that rates will increase even more if Century is allowed to buy power on the open market because of transmission costs.
Century representatives, however, told the committee that buying electricity elsewhere will not affect residential rates. Company officials said it will pay for the millions of dollars in transmission costs.
Century executives worked with West Virginia officials last year to negotiate a new power rate structure for their shuttered Ravenswood smelter.
However, the plan to restart that plant stalled when the state Public Service Commission rejected a Century plan to pass some of the plant's power costs onto regular ratepayers.
Daily Mail Business Editor Jared Hunt contributed.