MS Sierra Club Launches Billboards Pushing Commissioner Bentz to Repeal Rate Hikes for Kemper Boondoggle
**View the Billboards here and here **
GULFPORT, MS – The Sierra Club launched billboards in Gulfport and Ocean Springs, MS today, calling on Commissioner Leonard Bentz to immediately repeal rate hikes for Mississippi Power to pay for the boondoggle Kemper County coal plant. A second billboard calls on Mississippi Power to tell the truth about how much the Kemper plant will cost its 190,000 customers in Coastal Mississippi. Louie Miller, director of the Mississippi Sierra Club, was joined by representatives from the Republic Elected Officials Association, the local NAACP and AARP chapters, and Mississippians for Affordable Energy to announce the new billboards and call on Commissioner Bentz to immediately repeal the 15% Kemper rate hike previously approved by the Commission.
“Commissioner Bentz needs to take responsibility for the damage the Kemper rate hikes are doing to his constituents and our struggling coastal economy,” said Louie Miller, with the Sierra Club. “Thousands of Mississippi voters took action to fight these rate hikes and to fight the state legislature, which gave Mississippi Power the ability to charge another billion dollars in Kemper costs to our monthly electric bills. We’re launching billboards in Gulfport and Ocean Springs to send the message that Commissioner Bentz cannot keep giving Mississippi Power a free pass. The Commission should repeal the Kemper rate hikes now, and have a full accounting of who knew about the cost overruns and when. The stakes are too high to take Mississippi Power’s word.”
“The governor needs to call a special session to rename the Mississippi Public Service Commission the Friends of Mississippi Power Company,” said former State Senator Bob Usey, president of the Republican Elected Officials Association. “Two Commissioners voted to approve a 15% increase of our electric rates without all the necessary information. I am concerned about the elderly, disabled, people on a fixed income and others who will be plagued each month by the rate increase granted by a majority of the PSC. In my opinion, the Commission should repeal the rate hikes now.”
The Sierra Club has challenged the plant since Mississippi Power first proposed the project, calling the Kemper proposal dirty, expensive, and unnecessary. Mississippi Power first reported cost overruns of $366 million in May 2012, although the company had known for months the plant was overbudget. Since May 2012, the plant has gone further over budget. The latest reports from May 2013 show the total cost of the plant and mine at $4.53 billion, approximately two billion dollars more than Mississippi Power originally projected. Southern Company was forced to absorb more than five hundred million dollars in cost overruns earlier in 2013.
Ruth Story with the Gulfport NAACP added, “Nearly all of Mississippi Power’s customers are in Southern Mississippi, yet Commissioner Bentz will not talk to his own constituents about these rate hikes. We feel we have no choice but to take our message to the broader public, and call on Commissioner Bentz to do the right thing for the people he is supposed to represent.”
“Commissioner Bentz has made poor decisions over and over again, and it’s past time to correct course,” said Linda St. Martin, with Mississippians for Affordable Energy. “Ratepayers are already seeing their bills balloon – we don’t have a year to sit back and wait for Mississippi Power to come clean about the true costs of the Kemper plant. We’re only seeing the first of many rate increases to come, unless the Commission takes action to fix this massive boondoggle.”