Public Service Commission Set to Rubber Stamp Kemper Plant

Commission Announces Meeting with 8 Days’ Notice, Bailout Predicted

Jackson, MS–(ENEWSPF)–April 17, 2012.  The Mississippi Public Service Commission has essentially announced its intention to rubber stamp Mississippi Power’s proposed Kemper County coal plant.  The PSC gave notice of a public meeting on the afternoon of Monday, April 16, approximately one hour after a state court formally sent the matter back to the Commission, and with only eight days’ notice. In a unanimous 9-0 ruling, the Mississippi Supreme Court revoked Mississippi Power’s permit on March 15, saying that the PSC did not supply sufficient evidence to approve the proposed coal plant project. Since that time, the PSC has violated multiple state laws to protect Mississippi Power’s bottom line at the expense of ratepayers.

“Commissioners Bentz and Posey are up to their same tricks again, making sure that this boondoggle is rubberstamped, regardless of the consequences for the ratepayer,” said Louie Miller, State Director of the Mississippi Sierra Club.  “It doesn’t take a fortune-teller to see what they’re up to.  No matter what the facts are, they are going to approve this thing.”

In two years since the Kemper County coal plant was initially permitted, the economics of coal and competing energy sources have changed substantially. Natural gas prices have fallen to historic lows, making the Kemper plant even more costly and economically unstable than in 2010. Three weeks ago the Sierra Club submitted extensive evidence and expert testimony to the Commission showing that Kemper has become even worse for the ratepayer since it was approved in 2010, and must be reconsidered.  However, Commissioners Bentz and Posey have so far refused to hear any evidence of new developments since the plant was approved in 2010.          

“It seems like the PSC is saying ‘we don’t need to know the facts, Mississippi Power has already told us what to think,’” said Linda St. Martin, with Mississippians for Affordable Energy. “The PSC is laying down while MS Power takes jobs away from the Coast and burdens ratepayers with at least a 45% rate increase. This is a two billion dollar bailout for Mississippi Power, plain and simple, and the PSC is signing the check.”

Immediately after the March 15 Supreme Court ruling, Mississippi Power announced it would continue with construction, regardless of the Court’s ruling. Then, on March 27, in a surprise move, the Public Service Commission issued an order requiring Sierra Club and Mississippi Power to submit proposals offering opinions as to why the PSC initially approved the Kemper County coal plant. Essentially, the PSC was asking Mississippi Power to tell the Commission why it approved the coal plant.

Then, with two days’ notice on March 30, the PSC held a meeting lasting less than one minute in which Commissioner Leonard Bentz and Commissioner Lynn Posey voted by voice to approve a temporary authorization for the Kemper County coal plant. Commissioner Brandon Presley voted to deny, but was in the minority. Later that day, he issued a dissenting opinion chastising his fellow Commissioners for clearly misinterpreting and misapplying the law to authorize the coal plant.