Public service commissioners voted 2-1 last week to reissue the plant’s certificate of public convenience and necessity. Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley was the dissenting vote.
Last week’s action became necessary March 15, when the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that the PSC did not cite sufficient evidence from the record in its original order from 2010 that granted Kemper’s certificate. That kicked proceedings back to the PSC. The Sierra Club had challenged the plant after the 2010 order, calling the facility an expensive and unnecessary environmental hazard.
Mississippi Sierra Club director Louie Miller said after last week’s PSC hearing that the group would issue another challenge to the facility. The organization did just that Thursday, asking a Harrison County chancellor to shift the plant’s financial burden from the company to its ratepayers while litigation burns anew.
“Once again, (Commissioners) basically thumbed their nose at the supreme court,” Miller told reporters after Tuesday’s hearing. “The court, when they remanded this back to the PSC, said you did not provide sufficient evidence.”
The Sierra Club and Entegra, a Florida-based company that sells natural gas-fired energy to wholesale customers, had asked the PSC to reopen the Kemper docket after the supreme court’s ruling. Each wanted a new round of evidentiary hearings that incorporated historically low natural gas prices into the fact-finding process, and that explored fixed-price natural gas alternatives for Kemper. In its order, the PSC denied those motions.
“It doesn’t matter what’s in the (new) order,” Miller said. “(Commissioners) haven’t supplemented the record with any new evidence. Our attorneys feel they’ve chosen, for whatever reason, to ignore the instructions from the supreme court. They’ve ignored the public, they’ve ignored us in this matter and they’ve chosen to run with Mississippi Power.”
The Sierra Club has an injunction pending before the high court that would have prevented the PSC from issuing a new certificate for Kemper. Justices have not ruled on that motion. The Sierra Club had also asked the court to order a halt to the plant’s construction. That was in response to MPC’s decision to keep building the facility between the time the high court rendered its original certificate invalid and when the PSC reissued it.
“Where I’m trying to get to is the fact that this permit is not legal,” Miller said. “What they did (last Tuesday) is illegal. We will challenge this, no doubt about it. This ain’t over by any stretch of the imagination, until a court says it is.”
Jeff Shepard, MPC spokesperson, said after last week’s hearing that the company is happy to have new certificate in hand. He added the company has already spent $1.1 billion on the project, and has committed so far to spend a total of $1.5 billion.
“We hope” the days of the company having to defend the plant in court are over,” Shepard said. “We’re $1.1 billion into it, so how do you stop a project? I don’t know exactly where the point of no return is.”