CFAC Goes Dark
by K.J. Hascall
Daily Inter Lake, October 31, 2009
On Friday afternoon at Columbia Falls Aluminum Co., the pots where aluminum used to be produced are dark and cold. The floors have been swept and the grounds are empty beneath leaden skies.
"Being a gloomy day like this, the weather is pretty appropriate," spokesman Haley Beaudry said. "It's closed. [The plant] is not operating anymore."
The aluminum manufacturer has completely curtailed production and 88 people have been laid off.
The firm was unable to reach an agreement on electricity with Bonneville Power Administration despite months of negotiations. CFAC has in the past negotiated five-year contracts with Bonneville. The most recent contract was supposed to extend from Oct. 1, 2006, until Sept. 30, 2011, but because of a lawsuit filed by a number of West Coast cooperatives, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court ruled that CFAC's contract didn't fit with the Northwest Power Act and was therefore void.
Beaudry said Bonneville Power Administration might be putting together a short-term agreement.
"I believe that Bonneville is going to put out a draft of the agreement this evening for public comment," he said.
Beaudry said he has heard the proposed draft will be available for comment until Nov. 9 on the power company's Web site, www.bpa.gov/corporate.
Once comments have been made, Bonneville will make changes if necessary and then present a formal proposal to CFAC.
"I don't even know what this proposal is going to say," Beaudry said.
There is no time line for the factory to restart.
"We're out of raw materials now," he said. "It's a major process to shut down and it's another major process to restart. We've laid everybody off, including me. I want to comment about what a terrific work force we have out here. If there's any way to save these jobs, it's worthwhile.
"I wish we had been able to come to a solution before this."
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