By Bob Matyi
February 26, 2014

W.V. ruling on Felman power rate could come soon 

West Virginia regulators are getting closer to a decision on a special electricity rate that could determine if and when Felman Production restarts its 105,000 mt/year silicomanganese plant in New Haven, a spokeswoman for the state Public Service Commission said February 26.

For the past month, the PSC has been reviewing testimony and other evidence submitted in the case amid speculation a final order could be issued before the end of the first quarter.

"We're closer than we were" to a decision, PSC spokeswoman Susan Small said. Although she would not confirm an order would be forthcoming in March, she remarked, "March is a long month."

Felman has argued that it needs about $95 million in power-rate relief before it can restart its plant, which was idled at the end of the second quarter last year.

In addition to pursuing lower electricity costs, the company is also seeking unspecified "concessions" in its existing labor contract with the United Steelworkers union, Denny Longwell, a veteran USW staff representative, told Platts on February 26. Longwell is involved in the negotiations with Felman.

A Felman spokesman said he was unaware of the discussions with the USW.

Felman's power-rate proposal is opposed by several parties, including the Consumer Advocate Division of the PSC, which has said the company has not demonstrated that lower power rates would lead to the plant's reopening.

The domestic market for silicomanganese is about 400,000 mt/year, with Felman representing about 25% of the market with its own production. Its parent company Georgian American Alloys had an estimated US market share of just over 50%, combining Felman's own production with silicomanganese imported from Georgia.

Several silicomanganese market participants have argued that this large market share was built at a cost as the large volume of imported silicomanganese from Georgia kept US prices depressed for several years.

Felman's West Virginia plant is a three-furnace operation.