State legislators urge Trump to save REC Silicon
Members of the state’s congressional delegation are urging President Donald Trump to resolve the ongoing trade dispute with China and save embattled polysilicon producer REC.
In a letter co-authored by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-Ellensburg), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Denny Heck (D-Wash.), the legislators are asking the president do what is necessary to prevent the company from closing its Moses Lake facility.
“In July we warned that the trade dispute between the U.S. and China over solar power was threatening hundreds of highly skilled jobs in Washington State and Montana, and we regret to inform you that REC will be forced to completely shutter its operations in Moses Lake, Washington at the end of this month,” the members of Congress wrote. “The closure will result in the loss of 150-200 highly skilled manufacturers and will severely impact the economy of Eastern Washington.”
REC Silicon, which is based in Norway, scaled back its U.S. polysilicon production in Moses Lake following the imposition of tariffs on U.S.-made polysilicon in 2013, which blocked of American polysilicon to the Chinese market. Polysilicon is used to produce wafers for solar panels, and since much of the world’s production is in China, the 57 percent tariffs — imposed after the Obama administration imposed a 30 percent tariff on Chinese-made solar products — have crippled the U.S. polysilicon industry.
“The damage inflicted on the US polysilicon industry was of course an unintended consequence, but one that has dramatically affected our constituents,”the legislators wrote. “We strongly urge you to move past the unsuccessful actions of the past Administration and find an immediate resolution to the trade dispute over Chinese solar panels and American polysilicon.”
In their letter, the legislators “implore” the president to “separate the negotiations over solar power from the larger bilateral trade conversations between the U.S. and China.”
“The threats to the U.S. polysilicon industry are immediate and dire, and we believe this sectoral dispute could be resolved in a short period of time,” the legislators wrote. “We believe a resolution over solar panels and polysilicon could serve as a symbol of good faith on both sides, protect intellectual property that provides domestic manufacturers a competitive edge, and spark meaningful progress in the larger trade negotiations between the U.S. and China.”
In July, REC president Tore Torvund said the company had the cash on hand to get through the end of the year. However, he has also said that if the situation did not improve, REC would have to consider closing the Moses Lake facility, which currently employs around 200 people and is operating at roughly 25 percent of capacity.
REC produces silicon gas, which is used to make semiconductors, at a facility in Montana. Demand for the gas has so far been unaffected by the current U.S.-China trade dispute.
On Friday, REC Silicon’s shares closed at 70 øre, or 9 cents, per share (100 øre = 1 krone, which is worth roughly 12 U.S. cents) on the Oslobors, Norway’s stock exchange, up from an opening price of 65 øre. The value of the company’s stock has declined 22 percent since July.