Commissioners give nod to co-op’s purchase of power plant

BATESVILLE and HATTIESBURG — The Mississippi Public Service Commission has approved the $286-million sale of bankrupt LSP Energy to South Mississippi Electric Power Association.

Commissioners voted 3-0 yesterday to give Hattiesburg-based SMEPA the right to operate the natural gas-fired power station in Batesville. The order also gives SMEPA the right to acquire any rights of way that it needs for transmission lines.

SMEPA has been buying a third of the 837-megawatt plant’s power under a long-term contract since 1998.

LSP filed for bankruptcy because one of its three power units broke down, leaving it without enough revenue to operate and make debt payments. The company owed more than $200 million to bondholders.

SMEPA generates and transmits power to 11 cooperatives in southern and western Mississippi, serving more than 400,000 customers combined.

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