WARREN LTV keeps coke plant hot as sale talks pass deadline

Some production workers have been called back to work.
WARREN -- The flame continued to burn at the LTV coke plant here as it remained on hot idle status this morning, pending the outcome of talks between Tonawanda Coke Corp. and a potential customer.
Not only was the flame still burning, but also a few United Steelworkers Union Local 1375 members were called back to work at the plant Thursday. Previously, the last union member had left the plant Wednesday morning, leaving only supervisors on the job.
The bankrupt LTV had said it would shut the plant down and put it on cold idle status Thursday evening if it wasn't sold to Tonawanda by then. Such a shutdown would cause heavy damage to the plant, making it unlikely that it could be sold.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge William Bodoh has given LTV the authority to sell the plant to an affiliate of Tonawanda Coke Corp. of Tonawanda, N.Y., if it can get a customer to commit to purchasing coke produced there. The plant has been on hot idle with no production for about one month.
Tonawanda had a customer to buy coke from the plant, but that customer said Wednesday that it couldn't commit to the purchase level Tonawanda expected.
Tonawanda officials haven't commented on their plans publicly, but LTV officials have said that Tonawanda has been trying to work something out with that customer and another customer. The coke plant used to send its coke to LTV's steel mills in Cleveland, but they have been shut down.
Tonawanda has offered to buy the coke plant for $1. With a sale, LTV avoids a $2 million cost to shut down the plant and perhaps millions more in environmental cleanup.
Workers: Tonawanda has taken applications from union workers but doesn't have the union contract that LTV had because it was voided by the judge. Union officials have said they hope to negotiate a new contract with the company if it takes over the plant.
The plant used to employ about 180 hourly workers and 30 salaried workers.
LTV also is trying to sell three steel mills, which are idling until Feb. 28.
LTV filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2000 but said last November that it was liquidating the company. It said it was out of customers and nearly out of cash.
LTV Steel has more than 7,000 people laid off, but LTV Copperweld has about 3,700 people working. Cleveland-based LTV Corp. is trying to sell the profitable metal fabricating division.

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