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Court: Kemper approval not based on ‘substantial evidence presented’

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled 9-0 Thursday afternoon that the Mississippi Public Service Commission’s decision to allow Mississippi Power Co. to build a lignite coal-fired power plant in Kemper County was not supported by “substantial evidence presented,” as mandated by statute.

The Sierra Club had sought to halt the project in Harrison County Chancery Court, which ruled in favor of the company. The Sierra Club appealed that decision to the high court last year.

The PSC voted 2-1 to allow the project to proceed. Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley was the dissenting vote.

“I think this puts us back to square one,” he said, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision to remand the case back to the PSC for further proceedings. Presley said the Commission was checking with its legal counsel to see if MPC had to halt construction, which started last year. He added that MPC had alerted PSC monitors last week that it anticipated cost overruns on the project.

Opponents of the project argued from the outset that the technology MPC planned to employ at Kemper was unproven, making the $2.88 billion plant an enormous risk for the company’s ratepayers, who would pay for construction with increased power bills. The company revealed in filings with the PSC that, on average, power bills would rise 45 percent.

I have a phone message in to MPC spokesperson Cindy Duvall. If and when she responds, I’ll post it.

UPDATE: Duvall just responded via email. “We have received the Mississippi Supreme Court’s order and are presently reviewing it,” she wrote.

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