WARREN Coke plant idles as deal ties to Cleveland LTV plant

A small group wants to save the local business.
WARREN -- Local business owners who are paying to keep the LTV Corp. coke plant idling are working with a company that is trying to buy an LTV steel mill in Cleveland.
Matthew Blair, a Niles lawyer who represents the business owners, said this morning that they intend to keep the coke plant idling as long as the company interested in the Cleveland mill remains a viable bidder. That company has committed to buying coke from the Warren plant, he said.
LTV ordered the natural gas to be turned off at the coke plant Friday, and by Saturday the gas was totally off. The local group stepped in Saturday, and the furnaces were turned back on early Sunday morning before the cooling process could do any damage to the bricks that line the ovens.
Hoping to save it: LTV said the local group included vendors who had supplied the plant, but Blair said the people in the group and their companies are not vendors. He said a small number of people are in the group, but he did not want to identify them.
"They are standing up to save the plant," Blair said.
They say it is one of the most modern coke plants in the country and think it would be a shame to lose it just because it couldn't keep idling for a few weeks, he said.
Blair didn't want to say how much they are paying to keep the plant idling. Production was stopped in December.
An auction of LTV's idling steel mills is to be Feb. 27.
Mayor Hank Angelo said saving the coke plant is a "50-50 shot at best."
He is trying to determine what financial incentives the city can offer that would increase the likelihood of a deal.
Still iffy: Angelo said he can't guarantee the city will offer incentives to a buyer of the plant, but he is considering some measures that could be brought before city council. It's possible that a buyer might not even want the city's help, he said.
News reports have said that several steel companies are considering making offers on LTV steel mills.
Officials of United Steelworkers of America, who represent about 180 hourly workers at the plant, have been pushing to have the coke plant idle as long as the steel mills to see if a buyer of an LTV mill in Cleveland would want to restart the Warren plant to have a supply of coke.
The plant now has only about six workers because only the coke ovens are being kept warm. Before this week, other parts of the plant also were being idled.

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