Gas shutoff not a good sign for plant

YORKVILLE – A decision by Esmark Steel Group officials to shut off the supply of natural gas to the plant indefinitely – beginning Wednesday, did not send a positive message to the local community or steelworkers who have been without work since May 2012.

The mill, now called The Ohio Cold Rolling Company, has been idle and awaiting an anticipated restart since the early summer months as its new owners continue to search for solid financial footing in the face of what experts with Esmark are saying is an overall weak steel market.

Esmark officials said they are continuing to supply the site with electricity.

Officials with the United Steelworkers Local #1223 said they see the move as one being made in the wrong direction if the intention is to accomplish a restart in the reasonable future.

Bill Keegan, said, “Esmark Steel Group has been working diligently for the past several months to address number of short-term challenges related to the delayed restart of operations at our Ohio Cold Rolling facility. As we have stated previously, there are a number of complicated issues contributing to the delayed restart, some of which are out of our control. These issues include continued weak domestic demand and pricing pressures in the cold-rolled steel marketplace, the effect of low-priced imports on the U.S. market, and continued high inventory levels experienced by domestic steel consumers that has impacted new orders.

“In addition, the delayed restart had an impact on Ohio Coatings Company (OCC) and its late entry into the annual tinplate contract negotiations process. OCC had to commit to annual black plate sourcing outside of Yorkville, and as a result OCRC lost its largest customer in 2013 and we could not offset the loss of OCC cold-rolled business for OCRC.

“These economic factors and continued market volatility have all contributed to our decision to idle the Ohio Cold Rolling facility and discontinue certain services until the facility is brought online later this year. We want to emphasize that this decision does not affect Ohio Coatings Company or Esmark’s other steel-related operations.

“As part of this decision we have been working with the local natural gas and electric utility companies and agreed to temporarily suspend natural gas service to the plant until we’re prepared to begin restart operations. We continue to maintain electric service for our water treatment plant and a small workforce for fire watch and ongoing maintenance.

“We remain committed to restarting the Yorkville facility in an orderly process and, hopefully, in a less volatile steel market. We are focused on resolving these short-term challenges and remain confident in OCRC’s ability to serve the light gauge and narrow width coil niche marketplace.”

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