Conservation Groups Urge BPA to Protect Workers Affected by Aluminum Company Closures
5/25/2001 -- -- Power curtailments will result in plant closures; economic help is needed for working families
Rob Masonis, American Rivers: 206-213-0330 x. 12
Nicole Cordan, Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition: 503-230-0421
Jeff Curtis, Trout Unlimited: 503-827-5700 x. 11
May 25, 2001…Portland, Ore…Conservation groups today sent a letter to Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) Acting Administrator Steve Wright urging full compensation for all workers whose jobs are affected as a result of aluminum company closures forced by BPA power curtailments.
Current agreements between BPA and aluminum companies end September 30, 2001. Bonneville is seeking to curtail aluminum company power for up to two years in order to meet the region's power demand and keep rates affordable. Power curtailments will likely result in temporary or permanent closures for many aluminum companies, which have benefited for years from low-cost power from BPA.
"Like salmon, aluminum company workers are victims of the current energy squeeze and deserve protection," said Rob Masonis of American Rivers. "Protecting workers and recovering salmon can go hand in hand if aluminum companies make the transition to clean, renewable energy sources and are willing to become energy self-sufficient no later than 2006. Our proposal would keep workers whole while that transition is made."
Groups signing today's letter have vigorously opposed any "special deals" with industry that would provide cheaper access to BPA power than its conventional ratepayers receive and allow companies to re-sell cheap power on the open market for profit.
The proposal laid out in today's letter calls for publicly funded compensation of full salaries and benefits for all workers during temporary company closures, if the aluminum companies commit to achieving energy self-sufficiency with clean power sources by no later than 2006. The groups also support reasonable periods of full salary and benefits to workers who lose their jobs due to permanent plant closures, along with publicly funded programs to help displaced workers find new, family-wage employment, such as retraining and relocation assistance.
"It is more than ironic that, in spite of protestations by BPA that they are balancing jobs and salmon, in reality both are suffering and the special interests that have always benefited at the expense of the region continue to profit," said Jeff Curtis of Trout Unlimited. "Just like the salmon - and families and tribes in the region that depend on them - who have suffered, aluminum workers and their families could become innocent victims of an inequitable system. We're asking BPA to help shift some of the burden from those who are hurting."
The groups' letter further calls on BPA to make new agreements with aluminum companies contingent upon the companies' shift away from dependence on BPA power and toward self-sufficient clean energy sources, regular market assessments to ensure compatibility between energy costs and aluminum prices, and to ensure BPA's ability to implement required salmon protections before lifting any power curtailments.
Groups on the letter include the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, Friends of the Earth, National Wildlife Federation, Northwest Energy Coalition, and Sierra Club.
Trout Unlimited's mission is to conserve, protect and restore North America's trout and salmon and their watersheds.