The fight for the life of Century Aluminum’s Goose Creek aluminium smelter continued this week in a courtroom in South Carolina, where attorneys for South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper) and the city of Goose Creek squared off over which entity would provide power to the smelter.
The controversy at issue involves a fight between Century’s long-term provider Santee Cooper and a municipal electric company established by the city of Goose Creek earlier this year. The legal issues are byzantine but the controversy boiled down amounts to a question of whether Century is allowed to begin purchasing its energy from the municipal electric supplier and end a relationship with Santee Cooper that has been in place since the 1980s.
Goose Creek fired the opening legal salvo a few months ago to assert its right to form such an electric utility and purchase power from out of state to sell to Century.
“The law is very clear. It’s not what Santee Cooper wants the law to be,” opined the city’s attorney Mitchell Willoughby in court on Thursday.
However, Santee Cooper’s attorneys posited that their client has the exclusive right to deliver to the aluminium smelter to the exclusion of all others.
“That’s the public policy. That’s the regulated energy market in South Carolina,” Santee Cooper’s attorney John Lay countered at the hearing.
“We don’t allow customers to shop for power in the open market.”
However, Goose Creek’s argument also alleges bad faith by Santee Cooper in the form of illegally preventing the city’s power company to form, and they say an email discovered from Santee Cooper spells out their explicit intent.
“They have done everything to obstruct and kill this,” accused Willoughby. “They are mad. They are angry they are losing this customer.”
However, Santee Cooper points to an annexation agreement between the city and Century that they say has the practical effect of establishing a shell corporation controlled by Century.
The judge made no ruling prior to adjourning the hearing, but he promised to help bring the legal proceedings to an end as quickly as possible.