Hello! So even as I write, our reporter Julie Grant is in Massena, covering Alcoa’s groundbreaking for its new plant expansion. The expansion, which press releases say will provide hundreds of new permanent jobs as well as construction jobs while it’s going on (more on this in a moment) has been a while coming.
Back in April, Alcoa made a deal with the Environmental Protection Agency for cleaning up PCB-contaminated sediment that the company released into the Grasse River before the chemical was banned in the 1970s. Some at the time said the decision put jobs ahead of the environment (and this is the EPA, so that’s a fairly meaningful accusation) by allowing Alcoa to use a less expensive (and some say less effective) capping and containment method rather than dredging the river and removing the contaminated sediment. Here’s a very informative blog post from David Sommerstein about the deal.
In return for permission to cap and contain, and a deal that gave it low-cost hydropower from the St. Lawrence River for at least the next 30 years, Alcoa said it would invest $42 million to modernize its East plant and build a new smelting line; it would also guarantee at least 900 jobs (that’s about 200 fewer than the currently-existing 1,100 or so jobs). It also said it would invest $600 million in a larger modernization plan.
Today, Alcoa’s breaking ground on that plan, and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who lobbied actively for the EPA to approve the capping and containment plan, is there, as are U.S. Rep. Bill Owens and New York Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy. Here’s the text from Schumer’s press release on that:
TODAY, July 1 at 12:00PM at Alcoa Inc. in Massena, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer will join Alcoa officials and workers to break ground on the expansion and modernization of their manufacturing facility in Massena. Alcoa plans to invest over $600 million in the facility which will create hundreds of new permanent jobs on top of the construction jobs created to carry out the expansion. In addition, Alcoa will continue its investment in river cleanup as a part of their modernization efforts. Schumer has been a long-time advocate for the Alcoa plant in Massena: earlier this year he successfully pushed the EPA to expedite an environmental review that allowed Alcoa to begin this expansion. In 2007, he fought for low-cost energy in St. Lawrence County so that plants like Alcoa could continue to be an economic engine for the region. Schumer will note that Alcoa is the region’s largest private-sector employer and the expansion of its aluminum operating facility – as well as their proposed efforts to continue cleanup of the riverbed – will boost jobs, economic growth and improve the environment.
Schumer will join Congressman Bill Owens, Alcoa officials and other community leaders for this long-awaited groundbreaking. Schumer will highlight this investment will retain and add hundreds of jobs in St. Lawrence County, ensuring it will be an economic engine and job creator for decades to come.
The plan for Alcoa’s expansion has been both popular and controversial; given the initial promise of fewer jobs than currently exist , I’m not completely clear where the “hundreds of new permanent jobs” are coming from, but I’m sure that will become clear. It’s also not quite clear how long the 900 promised jobs are actually promised for. We’ll have more from Julie tomorrow morning; and this story’s not likely to go away anytime soon.