CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Public Service Commission on Friday denied Century Aluminum's request for reconsideration of the special power rate plan the commission crafted for the company's Ravenswood plant.
However, in rejecting Century's request, the commission did leave the door open to let Century and Appalachian Power negotiate their own agreement, so long as it abided by the principles set forth in the original PSC plan.
"We hope to provide guidance that might lead to further discussion among the parties, with the prospect that the parties might ultimately arrive at an acceptable alternative leading to the reopening of the Ravenswood plant," the commission's ruling said.
Century has been working with the state officials all year to craft a special power rate for its shuttered Ravenswood aluminum smelter.
The plant closed in 2009 after the Great Recession triggered a sharp sell-off in global aluminum prices. More than 650 workers lost their job when the plant shut down.
Because the plant's power bill is its highest single expense, Century executives have said the company needs a flexible rate structure that will protect it from wild fluctuations in commodity prices.
The company had asked for rates that rise and fall with aluminum prices. It also proposed shifting costs onto other Appalachian Power ratepayers to make up some costs when prices were low.
In October, commissioners approved a special power rate structure for Century Aluminum. They essentially gave Century the rates they wanted, but said the company would be on the hook for any short payments to the power company.
Century balked at that idea.
The company said the commission's rate plan would not allow it to justify spending the money to restart the Ravenswood plant.
In late October, the company filed a petition with the PSC asking commissioners to reconsider their decision.
In their request, Century proposed two alternative rate plants that executives say could lead to a restart either immediately or when economic conditions improved. One of those alternatives still shifted costs onto other APCo ratepayers.
Critics blasted Century's reconsideration request, calling it a negotiating ploy and an ultimatum to get the plan they had originally asked for.
In its ruling, the commission agreed that Century's counter-proposals went far beyond the scope of a reconsideration hearing.
"In some cases, these changes do not represent mere 'adjustments at the margins' of the special rate mechanism approved by the commission; instead, they are a complete proposed reversal of many decisions underlying the final order," the ruling said.
The commission said the Century proposal that would have allowed the Ravenswood plant to restart immediately -- which included shifting costs onto other ratepayers -- was "fatally flawed."