Friday, August 2, 2013

Lawmakers frustrated over PUCO’s Ormet rate ruling, 1,000 jobs threatened

State Sen. Lou Gentile
COLUMBUS – State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) and State Sen. Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) released the following statements Friday expressing concern over a decision by the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) they say could cost jobs and negatively impact communities.
PUCO denied a request by the Ormet Corporation for an emergency reduction in electricity rates.
The legislators had hoped the PUCO would grant Ormet’s request for lower utility rates from American Electric Power (AEP) so they could complete a $221 million sale as a means to emerge from bankruptcy.
“PUCO’s refusal could jeopardize nearly 1,000 good paying jobs in Eastern Ohio. Ormet is asking for temporary relief to save and protect employees and the PUCO is fully aware that Ormet’s ability to keep operating was contingent upon the approval of an adjusted electricity price,” Gentile said.
Ormet is a U.S. based aluminum producer and manufacturer of custom and standard primary aluminum, foil, sheet, billet and other aluminum products.
Last summer, Ormet issued a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice regarding the possibility of laying off 998 employees. Both legislators have been engaged in conversations with Ormet, AEP, the United Steelworkers, and the State of Ohio for nearly a year.
State Rep. Jack Cera
Cera echoed Gentile’s frustration with the decision not to lower the companies electricity rate and the possibility of Ormet closing the Monroe County plant. 
"Keeping Ormet operating is vital to the state. We have been working with state officials to make sure they understand the economic and social impact that losing Ormet would have on the area. Ratepayers will be hit with additional costs whether Ormet is operating or not since they are such a large user of power and a huge part of AEP's rate base,” Cera said.
Gentile said the commission’s decision could have a significant impact not only on workers but the community and chastised PUCO for putting needed jobs at risk.
“Regulators had the opportunity to keep 1,000 people off of unemployment. Now, dedicated and longstanding employees are faced with uncertainty about their pensions and future employment. This decision will not only affect the workers, it is going to hurt families, the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District and the local economy.”
Cera called on Gov. Kasich’s office to intervene in the decision.

“We believe the Governor’s Office can work to expedite a decision more promptly than the end of August to help the state remain competitive in job growth and retention.”

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