Hearings are coming to an end on Thursday between Ormet and AEP. There is no timetable as to when the Public Utilities Commission is expected to rule, but they have said they want to make a decision as soon as possible.
It was day two of hearings between AEP and Ormet on Wednesday.
Ormet asked AEP Ohio to lower their rates so they can continue to operate. Representatives with AEP say even though they don't want to lose a customer as big as Ormet, the reduced rates the company is asking for are too low. Officials say the hearings could last a few days or even a few weeks.
Meanwhile, the United Steelworkers Local 5724 presented the Public Utilities Commission with petitions just before the hearings started. They were able to get 7,000 signatures of people who say they are standing with Ormet workers in their fight to get what they call an affordable rate.
Donnie Blatt of the United Steelworkers Union says it's all about saving jobs.
A very important hearing that began Tuesday morning could decide the future of Ormet and its 1,000 workers.
The long-time Ohio Valley employer is asking American Electric Power and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to lower their energy rates so the company can afford to stay open. Seven witnesses will take the stand for Ormet and one for AEP. The hearing could last more than a day.
Officials say when the evidentiary hearing is over, the attorney examiner will set a deadline for parties to file final briefs and then the case will come before the commissioners for a decision. Less than a week ago, the Ohio Public Utilities Commission approved a payment deferral for the August and September bills, keeping the lights on at the company.
This decision allowed the company to defer electricity bill payments of $5 million for August and $5.5 million dollars for September. The commission had previously approved the same deferral for October and November of last year. The steelworkers union said unless rates are changed soon, the longtime operation is going to have to close permanently. The union held a public in August to gain support.
West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin recently became involved in Ormet's situation, since it affects so many workers across the Ohio Valley. "We know these jobs are important to Ohio and West Virginia. We will do all we can to keep them," Tomblin said.