Creative Plan Could Aid Ormet

Utility regulators in West Virginia have come up with a plan that could save the jobs of about 650 aluminum plant workers. Why can’t their counterparts in Ohio do the same thing for more than 1,000 employees at the Ormet facility in Monroe County?

Ormet already has laid off 92 workers and company officials warn the number could go much higher. The local aluminum plant is suffering from low market prices for the metal it produces and high costs for electricity.

A deal involving American Electric Power and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has provided a break on electricity costs for Ormet during the past few years. But Ormet officials say a new rate structure in effect cancels that discount and increases their utility bills by about $20 million a year.

Much the same situation – a down market and high electricity costs – forced closure of the Century Aluminum plant in Ravenswood, W.Va. About 650 workers lost their jobs.

This week, however, the state Public Service Commission announced a plan whereby Century can get temporary breaks on power rates and possibly reopen the plant. At least some of the money in electricity charges saved now might have to be repaid later. At week’s end, it remained uncertain whether the deal would go through and the plant would reopen.

A similar plan might save jobs at Ormet – along with the Monroe County economy. PUCO and AEP officials should consider it, and, as we have urged before, state government should provide any other assistance Ormet needs to keep the local plant open.