Supreme court will hear Kemper Coal Plant arguments
by MBJ Staff
Published: November 4,2011
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The Mississippi Supreme Court will hear arguments from the Sierra Club challenging the state Public Service Commission’s approval of the project in Kemper County by Mississippi Power Co. Mississippi Power has started construction of the $2.4 billion coal plant.
Oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 14.
The suit was filed and heard in Harrison County Chancery Court. Judge Jim Persons ruled in favor of the Commission and Gulfport-based Mississippi Power in February.
Mississippi Power began building the Kemper plant after the Commission passed a second conditional approval of the facility with 2-1 vote in May 2010.
The Commission’s first conditional approval was passed in April of 2010 and capped the project at $2.4 billion, among other restrictions. The second order, passed approximately one month later, limits the plant’s cost overruns to $2.88 billion and also allows the utility to charge customers for financing costs before the plant becomes operational.
The Sierra Club believes the Commissions’ second conditional approval of the plant is arbitrary and unsupported by evidence presented in extensive hearings regarding the project.
The suit says that the Commissioners “did not explain how their finding that a $2.88 billion cost was acceptable could be squared with their previous finding that there is no evidence to support a cost of over $2.4 billion.”
State Sierra Club director Louie Miller said the club has taken on the unexpected role of consumer advocate in addition to environmental advocate in this case.
Included in the suit is an effort to make customer rate impacts from the plant available to the public.
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Mississippi Power customers do not know how much their rates will increase due to the plant’s cost. As Public Service Commission law has been interpreted historically, utilities can at their own discretion designate any information they desire as confidential.
“The rate impacts will be substantial,” Miller said. Sierra filed a motion in October to remove confidentiality on rate impacts and other items, “but the Commission chose to ignore it,” he said.
The Kemper County IGCC plant would use new technology to convert on-site Mississippi lignite coal into gas, which would then be used to produce electricity. The facility will have the distinction of being the first commercial-scale power plant in the United States to capture its carbon dioxide emissions.
The facility will produce 582 megawatts of new generation and is scheduled to be operational by 2014. Mississippi Power has said the plant will save customers money in the long run, because stable lignite costs will be lower than natural gas prices, which have been historically volatile.
The Sierra Club is a non-profit environmental conservation group with more than 700,000 nationwide. Approximately 1,700 Mississippians are members of the group.
In other news …
The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments on Nov. 29 in Jackson in an appeal by the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors from an order instructing them to not interfere with the operation of the local drug court.On Sept. 21, 2010, Circuit Court Andrew Howorth, who started drug court in January 2008, filed a “cease and desist” in June against the supervisors.
Howorth claimed the supervisors had continually interfered with the operations of the circuit court, almost from the day the current board took office in 2008. He also ordered the supervisors to comply with all reasonable requests made by and on behalf of the drug court pertaining to its funding by Lafayette County.
Earlier, Howorth had decided that Lafayette County would have no more responsibility for administering federal funds for the drug court program. He shifted that responsibility to Union County.
The 3rd Circuit drug court serves Lafayette, Marshall, Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Tippah and Union counties. Court is held in Oxford.
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