The Mississippi Public Service Commission voted 2-1 Friday morning to allow — at least temporarily — Mississippi Power Co. to continue construction on the Kemper County coal plant.
Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley was the dissenting vote.
Commissioners will hold another hearing Tuesday morning to decide if they will issue a permanent certificate of public necessity and convenience. Friday’s hearing was in response to a 9-0 ruling in mid-March by the Mississippi Supreme Court that said the PSC — in the same 2-1 split — decision in 2010 that moved Kemper forward was not based on “substantial evidence presented.”
In his written dissent, Presley cited John Conlee’s classic country music hit “Rose Colored Glasses,” writing that “the rose colored glasses allow the majority to bypass state laws about certificate proceedings, redefine ‘temporary,’ and brush away apparent cost overruns while forcing customers to bear risk for untried technology.”
Presley, the only commissioner to speak to reporters, said after the hearing — which lasted less than one minute — that “(MPC) is already in a too-big-to-fail scenario. I guarantee you we’ll be bailing them out eventually, and I’m against that kind of corporate socialism.”
MPC spokesman Jeff Shepard denied that the coal-fired generation plant is experiencing cost overruns. He added that the company has spent $1.1 billion on the project since construction started in 2010. Construction is expected to finish in 2014. Halting construction would lead to massive cost overruns, he said, noting that contractors who have already been hired would continue to bill the company.
“The cash register is ringing the entire time,” he said.
Mississippi Sierra Club director Louie Miller called Friday morning’s hearing “patently illegal,” saying that such hearings should contain public testimony. “The reason they haven’t opened this docket up is because they know it couldn’t stand the light of day,” he said, adding that the Sierra Club will appeal Friday’s decision, whose legal journey will most likely lead right back to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
UPDATE: A small correction: I just finished reviewing the docket for Tuesday’s meeting, and Kemper isn’t on there. It could be added, up to 24 hours before the meeting. Or, if commissioners want to add it during the meeting, they could, if all three agree to do so. That’s highly unlikely. It’s also unlikely that it will be on the docket if it’s not on there by now.
That said, the issue will be taken up either at the PSC’s next regularly scheduled meeting in May, or during a special called meeting in April. Sorry for that confusion. Y’all have a good weekend.