Strong support emerged at a public meeting in Columbia Falls, Mont., last week for BPA's proposed offer to sell power to Columbia Falls Aluminum Company. Attendees included staff from Montana's congressional delegation, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council chair, local and state officials, union leadership and former CFAC workers.
BPA is proposing to enter into a 4.5 year power sales agreement that would provide 140 average megawatts to CFAC beginning April 1, 2012. That would be enough power for the company to restart two of the five potlines at its Columbia Falls smelter.
Reopening the smelter, which has been shut down for two years because of economic factors, would create hundreds of new jobs in and around Columbia Falls, which has a population of about 3,600. BPA's proposed agreement stipulates that CFAC must employ at least 231 full-time employees while taking the full 140 average megawatts. Before the plant closed, CFAC had been a direct service industry customer of BPA since 1955.
Matt Lucke from Glencore International, CFAC's owner, stated that if offered the proposed contract today, CFAC would restart and run three potlines, two using BPA power and one using market power.
Both U.S. senators from Montana and the governor have expressed support for the proposed agreement.
The value of this contract also extends to spring and summer federal hydro operations. The proposed agreement requires CFAC to make available to BPA 10 percent of the power sale (14 megawatts) as operating reserves, allowing BPA to respond to periods of unanticipated power demands or drops in generation. In particular, having this load and the opportunity to make these kinds of reserve transactions will benefit BPA and its customers should the region face another spring like this year, when high river flows produced an oversupply of hydroelectricity.
Early this winter, BPA will decide whether to provide service to CFAC. Before that, the agency must complete two analyses. First, to ensure the benefits of serving the smelter equal or exceed the costs of providing that service, BPA must conduct an Equivalent Benefits Test. The draft test showed benefits to BPA would exceed the cost of service for 4.5 years. The EBT will be finalized after BPA considers comments received during the public comment period. And second, BPA will prepare an environmental document to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.
BPA will accept public comment on the proposed power sales agreement and associated environmental effects through Aug. 31.
For more details, see the fact sheet "Proposed power sales agreement with Columbia Falls Aluminum Company" or visit BPA's website.