Tester Urges Contract Between Columbia Falls Aluminum, BPA

By Beacon Staff

Sen. Jon Tester is urging Columbia Falls Aluminum and the Bonneville Power Administration to reach a long-term energy agreement by year’s end that would restore jobs to the shuttered plant.

In a letter to BPA Administrator Stephen J. Wright on Monday, the Democrat asked the agency to complete a contract that could create up to 350 jobs in the Flathead. The aluminum company was shuttered in October 2009, and nearly 90 workers were laid off as high energy prices made operations unprofitable.

Bonneville markets power produced at federal hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest, and for decades sold at-cost electricity to big industrial customers. But those energy prices continued to rise last year because of litigation against BPA, and CFAC was unable to find less expensive power on the open market.

Tester told the Missoulian on Monday he will continue to negotiate on the plant’s behalf. CFAC spokesman Haley Beaudry says he recently asked for the senator’s help.