American Soda cutting 50 jobs |

American Soda cutting 50 jobs

Post Independent Photo/Kelley CoxIn a press release Thursday, American Soda announced that operations at the Parachute Creek site and the Piceance Creek site will be scaled back, resulting in the loss of approximately 50 jobs.

PARACHUTE ” American Soda announced Thursday it is scaling back operations at two of its three operations in the Parachute area, eliminating approximately 50 jobs.

Currently, American Soda operates a nahcolite mine at Piceance Creek, about 70 miles northwest of Parachute. The nahcolite is processed into soda ash and sodium bicarbonate at the company’s processing plant about a mile outside Parachute.

An American Soda statement said that “continued high energy costs and continued losses at the operation” account for the decision to temporarily close down its mining and soda ash operations.

American Soda general manager Charlie Yates said Thursday that solution-mining activities at the company’s upper nahcolite mining plant and soda ash production at American Soda’s lower processing plant will be “mothballed.”

Yates said sodium bicarbonate, essentially baking soda, will continue being processed at the Parachute plant. Nahcolite will be transported to Parachute from Solvay Chemicals’ Green River, Wyo., facility for processing into sodium bicarbonate.

Yates defined “mothballing” as “taking off line. We’ll maintain the facilities but will not be operating mining operations or producing soda ash until market conditions improve.”

Discrepancy over dates

Yates said Thursday that layoffs at both plants will begin in July and will run through December of this year.

However, Dick Hogan, senior vice president of Solvay Chemicals in Houston, of which American Soda is a subsidiary, relayed through an assistant Thursday that layoffs will begin “immediately,” and will continue for the next four months.

Neither Yates nor Hogan could be reached following their comments to clarify the correct timeline of the layoffs.

Yates did say that departing American Soda employees will be receiving a severance package, which should assist them in transitioning to new jobs.

American Soda: see page A3

American Soda: from page A1

Yates said Solvay Chemicals has a limited number of jobs to offer employees in Green River, Wyo., and in Houston.

Initial reactions

“The most bothersome thing about this is the relationships and the friendships that have been built,” said Parachute Mayor John Loschke of the plant idling. “We’ve had it in the back of our minds, but it kind of hurts. We’re losing some good friends.”

Superintendent Steven McKee of Garfield School District No. 16 said he was sorry to hear the news.

“There are a lot of quality people who will be affected by the scaling back of American Soda,” McKee said. “They’re a great asset to the area, offering a clean industry base for future growth.”

McKee said he has concerns over decreased business and industry taxes, too.

“Before American Soda began operations in Parachute, a significant portion of our funding came from state aid,” McKee said. “Unless that funding gap created by American Soda scaling back can be made up in growth and oil and gas production, we will have to depend on receiving state aid once again.”

Yates said Thursday he had no projections on when the two operations might start production again. He added American Soda is not planning on selling its Parachute facilities.

American Soda was formed in 1996 by Williams Sodium Products Co. of Tulsa, a sister company to gas developers Williams Production, and American Alkali of Parachute. Solvay Chemicals acquired complete ownership of American Soda in September 2003.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

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