Sierra Club Takes Latest PSC Flip-Flop To Court

Jackson, MS–(ENEWSPF)–April 26, 2012.  The Sierra Club has appealed the most recent flip-flop by two members of the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) on the Kemper County power plant.  In a four minute meeting on April 24, Commissioners Leonard Bentz and Lynn Posey again refused to allow the public or opponents of the plant to speak, and without explanation reversed key findings of their original April and May 2010 orders approving the $2.8 billion dollar power plant.

In the April 24 order, key portions of which were drafted by Mississippi Power for the Commission, Bentz and Posey reversed their previous findings and stated that the plant is in the public interest, even if it costs the ratepayers more than Mississippi Power’s estimates.  While the Commissioners did keep the $2.88 billion dollar cap, they stated that it was not required by law, leaving the door open for Mississippi Power to try to bypass the cap later.

“There is really no choice but to appeal the latest flip flop,” said Louie Miller, State Director of the Mississippi Sierra Club. “Bentz and Posey’s latest decision basically parrots everything Mississippi Power says.  The Kemper plant is already a financial disaster for the ratepayer, and these two just won’t admit it.”

In April 2010 all of the members of the Commission voted unanimously that the Kemper plant as proposed by Mississippi Power could not be approved because it was too risky for ratepayers. Commissioners Bentz and Posey, however, said that the project could proceed if it did not cost more than $2.4 billion.   Less than a month later, and without explanation, Bentz and Posey voted to allow Mississippi Power another $480 million in cost overruns. Sierra Club challenged this decision, and the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Sierra Club in a March 15 decision.

Commissioners Bentz and Posey also refused to hear any evidence that the Kemper project is turning into an even bigger disaster for ratepayers, as natural gas prices reach historic lows.  

The Sierra Club had presented the Commission with expert testimony and evidence that gas prices, now at historic lows, have rendered Kemper a disaster for ratepayers before it is built.  Bentz and Posey have consistently refused to consider whether Kemper still makes sense.

In the latest court filing Sierra Club has asked the court to let Mississippi Power assume the risk of building the plant while the appeal proceeds.  “If Mississippi Power thinks it is such a good idea to build this boondoggle,” said Robert Wiygul, the attorney filing the appeal on behalf of the Sierra Club, “the company should take the risk and build the plant on its own nickel.  Instead, Mississippi Power wants the citizens of the coast to take all the risk.”

Nationwide, 168 new coal plants have been cancelled since 2001, and 107 plants have been scheduled for retirement. Coal is generating less power for Americans than ever before. Sierra Club continues to call on the Mississippi Public Service Commission to re-open the Kemper County coal plant case, accept new evidence and public comment, and accurately determine whether the plant is a good deal for ratepayers.