CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Lawmakers hoping to revive a bill that could have helped the idled Century Aluminum plant in Jackson County restart this year had their efforts thwarted in a hastily called meeting on the Senate floor Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee rejected Senate Bill 575 by a voice vote. That bill would have established a tax credit system that could have provided Century Aluminum with up to $20 million to restart their aluminum smelter this year.
Citing plummeting aluminum prices and high electricity costs, the Century plant in Ravenswood shut down in February 2008, sending over 670 people to the unemployment lines.
Company representatives said the bill would have been a crucial step in helping provide certainty about power rates over the next decade.
The bill would have essentially banked $20 million in severance taxes collected from coal companies in the state treasury. Any company with more than 300 employees then could have applied for money to be disbursed if they could demonstrate they would use it to create or maintain up to 150 jobs.
The money then would be paid to a coal company, which would pass along the $20 million benefit to a power company, who would pass the benefit along to the manufacturing company in the form of a lower rate.
The proposal was complex, but supporters believe it might have been passed if they had had more time to explain it.
Sens. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, and Mike Hall, R-Putnam, said they would move to have the finance committee reconsider the measure at its Wednesday meeting.
However, that attempt was cut off by Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion.
As senators gathered for a hastily assembled meeting in the Senate chamber following Wednesday morning's floor session, Hall said he did not have time to complete his motion.
"I was going to move to have it reconsidered and then move to recess just to get it back on the active agenda but didn't get a chance to ask the question," Hall said. "They moved to adjourn before they recognized me."
Senate Finance Committee chairman Prezioso defended his decision to adjourn the meeting, saying he felt Tuesday's committee vote on the bill was clear.
"It was pretty overwhelming" Prezioso said of the opposition to the measure. "They didn't have the votes to start with, and my fellow senators didn't want to go through the process."
Sen. Karen Facemyer, R-Jackson, was livid that the bill was rejected in committee and that the vote was not reconsidered.
"This was agreed to by the people in the industry," Facemyer said. "You've got the power companies, the coal companies, Century, the union that all worked on this and were in agreement as of yesterday (Tuesday) as of finance time. Now it's done, it's over."