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Kemper plant employee gag order continued

Kemper-Update-Logo_rgbJack Weatherly
A Jefferson County, Ala. judge has extended for another month a gag order preventing a key manager at Mississippi Power Co.’s Kemper County coal-fired power plant from making public statements about the facility.
The parent of Mississippi Power Co., Atlanta-based Southern Co., contends that the information would do great harm to the company.
The case is the latest development in the oft-delayed project that would turn lignite, a low-energy coal, into gas to be burned by the power plant that has seen its original budgeted cost increase to $6.2 billion from $2.8 billion.
On Feb.13, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered Mississippi Power to refund more than $200 million in a rate increase granted by the state Public Service Commission to pay for the facility.
The court held in its 5-4 ruling that the commission erred in several procedural matters and the rate increase was wrongly imposed. The utility appealed the ruling and the court has not said whether it will rehear the case.
Meantime, the refund is in limbo, said Brandon Presley, the Northern District commissioner, who said of the project: “I voted against building it and I voted against the increase.”
Presley is seeking re-election, while his counterpart for south Mississippi, Steve Renfroe, will not seek election as he finishes the 28 months on the term of Leonard Bentz, who resigned to become executive director of the South Mississippi Planning and Development District.
Lynn Posey, chairman and central district commissioner, is not seeking re-election. The general election is to be held in November.
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Elisabeth French granted on Feb. 26 the continuance of a temporary restraining order she issued on Feb. 19, so another hearing can be held March 26 at 2:15 p.m., according to John D. Saxon, a Birmingham lawyer who had represented Wingo till Feb. 19.
Efforts to obtain a copy of the continuance order from the Alabama court system’s online site were unsuccessful, but Saxon confirmed that it was handed down, though he declined to provide a copy of it.
A phone call and email to William King, a Birmingham lawyer representing the Southern Co. were not returned immediately on Friday.
Wingo and the Southern Co. have discussed an out-of-court settlement, according to a blog by Eddie Curran, a former reporter for the Mobile Press-Register. He posted this excerpt from the Feb. 19 filing:
“Mr. Wingo and all those acting in convey with him are nearby enjoined from disclosing to anyone, other than to counsel retained by Mr. Wingo . . . the terms and existence of any settlement that he has been offered by or has otherwise accepted from [Southern].”



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