BERKELEY CO., S.C. (WCBD) – Century Aluminum on Tuesday advised employees at the Mt. Holly plant that the company intends to essentially shut down if it is forced back into an agreement with power provider Santee Cooper, leaving nearly 300 employees out of a job.

The plant “will curtail 100% of smelter operations by no later than December 31, 2020…if the smelter is unable to secure a competitively priced power arrangement to deliver energy to the plant.”

Santee Cooper, which provides power to the plant, has “the highest [rates] offered to any US smelter and nearly twice as high as Century would be able to obtain on the open market.”

The ongoing legal battle between Santee Cooper and Century came to a head last week, when a judge ruled that Santee Cooper has the right to be the exclusive power provider for the plant:

“Based upon the pleadings and the record presented, the Court finds that Santee Cooper has the exclusive right to provide electrical power to the industrial customer known as Century Aluminum of South Carolina, Inc. (“Century”) and that Goose Creek’s newly formed municipal electrical utility cannot provide service to Century without taking additional actions mandated by state law. The Court also finds that the agreement Goose Creek has entered into with Century to facilitate the future operations of the provision of the electrical service is void because it violates the public policy of the State of South Carolina.

President and CEO of Century Aluminum, Michael Bless, said that “the closure of Mt. Holly would be a distressing and totally unnecessary tragedy for our 295 employees, their families and the broader community in South Carolina.”

Alternatively, if an agreement is reached, Bless argued that “Mt. Holly would return to full capacity, employing 600 persons, supporting over 2,000 total jobs and creating $1 billion in economic activity.”

Bless said that Century is “willing to pursue any route that leads to a market-based power price for Mt. Holly.”

Santee Cooper provided News 2 with the following statement:

Santee Cooper has very competitive prices, and our industrial rates are 20% below the national average. Santee Cooper has worked with the Mt. Holly plant since 2012 to help them achieve significant savings. The issue is that there is only so much capability to import electricity from off system, and it is not easily or quickly expanded. We use our capability to benefit Century and other industrial customers across the state, along with about 2 million South Carolinians who get their power directly or indirectly from us. We are talking, and have offered to extend the current contract with Century to give all parties additional time.

In a letter sent by Santee Cooper President and CEO Mike Bonsall to Bless, Bonsall encourages Bless to reconsider an extension of the contract, which Bonsall says “would give both of [them] more time to work through longer-term issues.”