Palmetto Sunrise: Senate panel hears Century Aluminum bill

Century Aluminum's Mount Holly smelter is located off U.S. Highway 52. The Chicago-based company wants to buy all of its electricity from a third party, but Moncks Corner utility Santee Cooper says that arrangement would hurt other customers. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

COLUMBIA -- A Senate panel will hear testimony on a bill about Century Aluminum, similar to a House version that died last week in an attempt to save hundreds of jobs.

The bill by Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, would allow the Mount Holly smelter to buy all of its electricity on the open market, reimburse state-owned utility Santee Cooper for transmission costs and keep 300 jobs in Berkeley County.

“My commitment to Santee was to look for a legislative solution that doesn’t negatively impact any of Santee’s customers,” Grooms said. “So I introduced a piece of legislation that would allow Century purchase 100 percent of power off system. But with the caveat that if doing so would harm Santee Cooper or customers Century Aluminum would have to reimburse Santee. So there’s a clawback provision in the bill.”

Santee Cooper has said it can’t let Century buy all of its power from a third party because other customers would then have to subsidize the utility’s transmission of that power to Mount Holly.

The plant currently buys 75 percent of its power on the open market and the rest from Moncks Corner-based Santee Cooper. Bless has said that arrangement can’t work in the long term because Century needs to get all of its power from utilities that produce electricity with cheaper natural gas rather than the more costly coal Santee Cooper mostly uses.

“At this power price, it will allow us to run this plant through good times and bad,” Mike Bless, president and CEO of Century Aluminum said last week. “As long as we have a competitive price, even when the (price of aluminum) is down, we have the confidence to know — it’s going to go back up if we keep running.”

The bill has a steep hill to climb and would need to pass the Senate today in order to get over to the House before a May 1 deadline for bills in either chamber to have any shot at becoming a law. After the deadline bills require a 2/3s vote to be sent to the other chamber.

The hearing is at 10 a.m. and will be streamed live online. Watch here. The House gavels in at 10 a.m. and the Senate an hour later.

Governor goes to Washington

Gov. Nikki Haley will testify in front of Congress’ Homeland Security Committee this morning about the potential impact to the Charleston region if terror detainees from the Gitmo holding site in Cuba are transferred here.

Haley is part of a panel of speakers who will address state and local perspectives about what moving potentially dozens of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. mainland would mean.

The governor’s trip will be brief since her schedule shows a 4 p.m. industry appreciation awards presentation at the Governor’s Mansion.

Today’s headlines:

Congressional committee votes to keep Confederate flag at Citadel, setting up a larger fight (The Post and Courier)

Clyburn takes aim at Citadel’s Confederate flag (The Post and Courier)

Blacks, whites agree on Confederate flag removal, new S.C. poll out today shows (The Post and Courier)

Moncks Corner House lawmaker resigns amid sexual harassment allegation (The Post and Courier)

Bill regulating erectile dysfunction medication heads to House floor (The Post and Courier)

Lawmakers approve roads funding, alimony and prostitution bills (The Post and Courier)  

Wild Dunes owner to buy ports authority’s Charleston HQ site (The Post and Courier)

Senate passes bills aimed at reforming state ethics laws (The Post and Courier)

Defense Authorization looks at MOX funding (The Aiken Standard)

Transgender group threatens to sue Horry County Schools (WBTW)

Senate passes bill creating ‘Eartha Kitt Day’ in S.C. (AP)

Proposal to raise SC’s minimum wage killed (The Herald)

Clinton is the insider who’s surviving in the year of the outsider (The Washington Post)

Airstrike destroys Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, killing staff and patients (The Washington Post)

Ted Cruz Unveils a Campaign Surprise, but It May Not Be Enough (The New York Times)

President Obama Weighs His Economic Legacy (The New York Times)

GOP senators in denial about Trump (POLITICO)

Trump refuses to rule out nuclear strike against ISIL (POLITICO)