Mississippi Power Tries To Shift Additional Billion Dollars of Kemper Costs to Customers
JACKSON, MS - The Mississippi Sierra Club has uncovered an attempt to pass an additional billion dollars in costs from the Kemper County Coal Plant on to Mississippi Power customers as part of the proposed settlement agreement between the company and the Public Service Commission. The Mississippi legislature is preparing to vote on a proposed bill that would require the Commission to pass on additional costs to customers on top of the rate increases customers may already be forced to pay. The bill will effectively result in fewer than 200,000 customers paying for a $3.8 billion experimental coal plant. The proposed legislation is a key part of the settlement agreement announced by Mississippi Power and the Commission on Thursday, January 25, 2013.
"The Public Service Commissioners have shown their true colors; they'd rather force Mississippi families to pay an additional billion dollars for the Kemper coal plant than make Mississippi Power own up to its mistakes. The Kemper coal plant is failing. It's behind schedule, hundreds of millions of dollars over budget, and may never produce power," said Louie Miller, State Director of the Mississippi Sierra Club. "Mississippi Power's allies in the State Capitol are doing everything they can to move this bill before the public can take notice, and the end result will be economic devastation along the coast."
The proposed legislation was introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives by Senator Terry C. Burton (R-Newton) as Senate Bill 2755, and Representative Charles Jim Beckett(R-Bruce), as House Bill 1134. Both were passed out of committee today. If signed into law, Mississippi Power will be able to issue bonds to raise money to pay for additional spending at the Kemper plant. Mississippi Power will then charge customers to fund the bond payments; Mississippi Power customers will have no choice but to pay substantially higher bills until the bonds are paid off. The arrangement strips authority from the Public Service Commission, which cannot alter rate hikes for bond payments.
"This is truly Machiavellian," added Miller. "Mississippi Power and its parent Southern Company are willing to risk the future of Southern Mississippi to fund their massive gamble on this plant. If this bill becomes law, no one can appeal without putting up tens of millions of dollars for an appeal bond. Mississippi Power is losing in the courts and doesn't want to risk further losses. Customers will be effectively barred from challenging the bonds, and will be paying the price for decades."
The Sierra Club released a new public opinion poll today, showing that Southern Mississippi voters strongly oppose rate hikes to pay for the Kemper coal plant. More than three quarters of voters polled agreed that Mississippi Power's shareholders should pay for cost overruns, not customers. Additionally, more than half of voters felt that any Public Service Commissioner who voted to raise rates for the Kemper plant would be sending a signal that he or she "cares more about big utility companies than families."
The Mississippi Sierra Club has opposed the Kemper County Coal Plant since it was first proposed in 2009. For more information, please visit the Mississippi Sierra Club Chapter website or to view past press releases, click here.