CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Century Aluminum retirees said again Monday that they hope the company and Appalachian Power can work out a plan to get the Ravenswood plant back open, but not at the expense of other power customers.
About a dozen retirees and spouses rallied in front of the West Virginia Capitol Monday afternoon. They came to support Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in his bid for re-election this November. Tomblin supported them when Century terminated their health-care benefits, they said.
"[Tomblin] was willing to listen to us when we needed him," said Karen Gorrell, a spokeswoman for the retirees. "Had it not been for him, we'd never be able to get our benefits with Century."
After Century shuttered its Ravenswood plant in 2009, it cut health-care benefits to its retirees. Tomblin met with company officials and told them that before the company would get state economics benefits from the state to help restart the plant, it would have to work out an agreement for health-care benefits with the company's retirees, she said.
The retirees will not get their health-care benefits unless the Ravenswood plant restarts. Century officials have said that without a special rate on the cost of electricity, it cannot restart the plant. The Consumer Advocate Division of the Public Service Commission has argued that the special rate, based on the price of aluminum, would cause higher bills for other Appalachian Power customers.
Century officials are waiting for a decision on the matter from the PSC.
Gorrell said she supports Century's hopes to restart the plant, but not if it means that other Appalachian Power customers will have to pay more for electric.
About 738 retirees and spouses were affected when Century dropped health-care benefits, she said. Gorrell said there needs to be national legislation to prevent companies from dropping retirement benefits to their retirees.
"They're still a viable company," Gorrell said of Century. "They have other operations ... if they were bankrupt it'd be different."
The retirees are struggling to get by on their pensions, she said.
"What are you supposed to do?" she said. "People are choosing between food and medicine ... these are people who worked hard all their lives."