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Archive for April, 2012

Trade organization: U.S. craft beer exports soared in 2011

April 27th, 2012 No comments

Numbers from the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association show that American craft beer exports nearly doubled from 2010 to 2011.

Last year, craft beer makers in the U.S. exported  more than 110,000 barrels, up 86 percent from 2010.

Exports have gone up all nine years the BA has collected data.

That’s important to Mississippi, what with our new raised alcohol-by-weight law taking effect July 1. (Legislation Gov. Phil Bryant signed in early April will raise the cap from 5 percent ABW to 8 percent ABW.) The state’s lone existing brewery, Lazy Magnolia in Hancock County, told the Mississippi Business Journal last year an 8 percent ABW law would bump their revenues an estimated 25 percent annually.

And in the Jackson area, the folks at Lucky Town Brewery have just completed gathering seed money to begin brewing their beer on a small scale with the hopes of eventually opening a full-blown brewery. The hope is that microbreweries will begin to take hold in some of the state’s more touristy areas — the Coast, the Delta and the college towns.

This is a good example of a small business-driven market that has a lot of growing left to do. Mississippi seems to have jumped into the game in the nick of time.

For the full report from the BA, click here.

PSC votes 2-1 to reissue Kemper certificate

April 24th, 2012 No comments

The Mississippi Public Service Commission voted 2-1 Tuesday morning to reissue the certificate of public convenience and necessity for Mississippi Power’s coal-fired plant in Kemper County.

Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley was the dissenting vote.

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in March that the PSC failed to cite sufficient evidence from the record in granting the first certificate. The court’s 9-0 ruling kicked proceedings back to the PSC. Preserved in the latest certificate is the $2.88 billion cap on construction costs MPC can pass to its ratepayers. Any cost overrun above $2.4 billion still must be approved by the PSC. Also, any construction costs above $2.4 billion cannot be recovered until the plant is in commercial operation.

MPC spokesman Jeff Shepard said after Tuesday’s hearing the plant would begin full-scale commercial activity in May 2014.

Louie Miller, executive of the Mississippi chapter of the Sierra Club, said after the meeting his organization would file for a stay on Tuesday’s ruling by the end of the day. It was unclear whether that filing would be made in Harrison County Chancery Court or with the Mississippi Supreme Court.

In latest filing, Miss. Power seeks permission — with conditions — to exceed Kemper cost cap

April 23rd, 2012 No comments

Mississippi Power Co. is asking the Public Service Commission to allow it to exceed the $2.88 billion cost cap on its Kemper County coal plant, under certain conditions.

Those are claims the Sierra Club, an opponent of the plant, made in a conference call Monday.

The company filed April 12 a revision to its proposed final order (which it filed April 2) that essentially seeks permission to go beyond the cost cap as long as it:

* Produces what the company calls “efficiencies” that are netural or favorable to the ratepayer. In other words, as long as it doesn’t cost the ratepayers any more money, or it saves ratapayers money over the life of the plant.

* The proposed cost increase is accompanied by an equal or greater revenue requirement decrease  associated with one or more of the other estimates (like operational performance or sales of byproducts) in the company’s original proposal.

* The cost increase is caused by a natural disaster, terrorist strike, change in utility law, some sort of sabotage or a related event.

* To the extent the PSC does not allow 100 percent construction work in progress (CWIP), which MPC assumed when it made the $2.4 billion cost estimate, it will allow an increase in that figure to reflect the allowable funds used during construction (AFUDC) that CWIP would have obviated.

Mississippi Sierra Club’s Louie Miller said what MPC is asking for amounts to the company “reneging on everything they’ve agreed to.”

“We’re going from a mandatory-type environment to a permissive environment. This is what we’ve been concerned about all along.”

Commissioners have called a special meeting for Tuesday morning, where they will take up the Kemper project.

UPDATE: MPC spokesperson Jeff Shepard said after Tuesday’s hearing that the company was not trying to exceed the outer hard cap of $2.88 billion, but trying to “supplement the record” with more information.

Kemper coal plant on agenda for special PSC meeting Tuesday

April 19th, 2012 No comments

The Mississippi Public Service Commission will hold a special meeting Tuesday, and only two items are on the agenda.

One of those is Mississippi Power Company’s Kemper County coal plant. The other has to do with Willmut Gas and Oil Company and EnergySouth seeking approval of a transfer of control. Obviously, one will get a lot more attention than the other.

Commissioners have had a couple weeks to review the three proposed final orders they received related to Kemper. The Sierra Club and Entegra Power Group, a Florida-based company that operates and markets electric power from natural gas-fueled power plants to wholesale customers, each proposed that the PSC reopen the Kemper docket with the aim of exploring options to include natural gas instead of lignite coal as the plant’s main fuel source.

Mississippi Power proposed an order that the PSC re-issue the certificate of public convenience and necessity for the plant. Commissioners can adopt one of the three orders, or issue their own.

Central District Commissioner Lynn Posey told the Mississippi Business Journal in early April that it’s almost certain Commissioners will issue their own order. He added that it would probably contain parts of each of the three proposed orders, but wouldn’t go into detail beyond that.

Tuesday’s agenda says there will be discussion “and possible action” on the two agenda items. So it’s no guarantee the PSC will do anything definitive. Like every other Kemper hearing, though, Tuesday’s should be a show.

Quarles out of Supreme Court race

April 18th, 2012 No comments

Starkville attorney Lydia Quarles has dropped out of the race to replace George Carlson on the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Quarles, who is also a senior policy analyst with Mississippi State’s Stennis Institute of Government, filed withdrawal papers with Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office April 4, according to records there.

Quarles’ withdrawal leaves Batesville lawyer Flip Phillips and Oxford lawyer Josiah Coleman as the two remaining candidates. I have a message in to Quarles at her office. If and when she returns it, I’ll post what she says.

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Court strikes Pascagoula school revenue-distribution law

April 12th, 2012 No comments

In a decision split a couple ways, the Mississippi Supreme Court has struck down a law that requires the city of Pascagoula to distribute tax revenue collected from liquified natural gas terminals and crude oil refineries to all school districts within Jackson County.

Chevron has an oil refinery in Pascagoula, and Gulf LNG has a terminal there.

The city had sued to prevent the all-inclusive distribution shortly after the law was passed in 2007, essentially saying that ad valorem tax revenue collected within the Pascagoula School District should benefit that district alone.

Justice Ann Lamar, writing for the majority, said the law the Legislature passed did not meet the constitutional mandate that a school district’s taxes be collected to maintain “its schools.”

The high court remanded the case back to Jackson County Chancery court. It’s a fairly complicated opinion, with partial concurrences and dissents. Instead of trying to explain it all, I’ll link to it. View the entire thing here.

Obviously, though, this is a big victory for the City of Pascagoula and its school district.

Highway funds bill dies while tax credit measures live on, for now

April 11th, 2012 No comments

Catching up on a few things …

House Bill 791, which would have for all intents and purposes precluded state Highway 9 north of Blue Springs from ever having extensive improvements made to it, did not survive the deadline for committees to report bills that originated in the opposite chamber. Its life officially ended April 3.

Gary Chandler, head of Corinth’s Alliance, who opposed the bill along with officials from Tishomingo and Prentiss counties, said he hopes the issue is dead for the session.

“You never say never,” he said in an interview Friday. “We are monitoring the situation. This was awfully damaging to our efforts to make 9 north a supplier route for Toyota.” There remains the possibility that the bill could be revived as an amendment to another bill that deals with the same section of law.

Also dying was one of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s business law proposals that would have allowed for a “pass-through” from employers to employees of a tax credit normally reserved for creating new jobs. Sharing that fate was another of Hosemann’s proposals to offer a 7 percent tax credit to companies who enter into a technology-based agreement with any of Mississippi’s research universities.

Two of Hosemann’s proposals remain alive, each of them a tax credit of some kind. One is a 50 percent tax credit for companies who relocate their headquarters here; another is a 50 percent tax credit for companies already headquartered here that choose to expand. Each sits in the Senate Finance Committee and faces an April 17 deadline to pass the Senate. Otherwise, they’ll die, too.

Bryant signs beer ABW bill (Updated)

April 9th, 2012 No comments

Gov. Phil Bryant has signed Senate Bill 2878, which raises the alcohol content in beer from 5 percent to 8 percent alcohol by weight.

According to the Legislature’s website, Bryant signed the bill April 5, which was last Thursday. Monday was the day Bryant had to either sign it or veto it before it automatically became law.

On July 1, when the law takes effect, Mississippi’s beer options will grow. Raise Your Pints and all the lawmakers — especially Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, and Rep Hank Zuber, R-Ocean Springs — deserve a massive amount of credit for being persistent and pushing this issue as one that had to do with economic development and tourism, and not alcohol.

UPDATE: Raise Your Pints president Butch Bailey, as you might imagine is having a pretty good Monday.

“We’re thrilled,” he said. “And, we’re thankful that Gov. Bryant recognizes that this will help our small businesses and it will promote the production and sale of Mississippi-made products.”

Bailey said his organization is planning a couple celebratory events. One is tonight in Hattiesburg at the Keg and Barrel. There will also be one in Jackson, either tonight or tomorrow.

Best I can tell, Bryant signed the bill late Thursday. Because lawmakers and Capitol clerks weren’t around Friday because of the Easter holiday, the signed bill didn’t get filed until this morning. That explains the delay between the listed signing date and it not appearing on the legislative website until Monday morning.

Trustmark, local medical groups to sponsor True South Classic

April 3rd, 2012 No comments

A consortium of four medical groups and Trustmark Bank will serve as sponsors for this year’s True South Classic (formerly the Viking Classic), which will be held at Annandale July 16-22.

NewSouth NeuroSpine, Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, Jackson Heart Clinic and GI Associates and Endoscopy Center are the healthcare sponsors. The sponsorship deal is for one year, with a two-year option. Trustmark will be the title sponsor the pro-am, held the Wednesday before the tournament starts.

John Marovich, of the Birmingham-based Bruno Event Team who serves as tournament director, said that option either would or wouldn’t be exercised probably by the end of October, when the PGA Tour likes to have its schedule finalized.

“This is an obvious step for all four of our practices,” said NewsSouth NeuroSpine’s Dr. Jack Moriarty, of the decision to enter into a sponsorship agreement. “Being apart of this community and encouraging our citizens to live healthy lifestyles is a big part of all our missions. We think being involved with the True South Classic is a perfect extension of that.”

During tournament week, the four medical groups will have tents set up adjacent to the 18th Fairway that will offer all manner of free medical screening, including blood pressure tests, body mass index tests and flexibility screenings.

Marovich admitted that were days when it was “touch and go” as to whether this sponsorship deal would come together. “There was a period of time when we really had some doubts,” he said.

Marovich said a total of $4 million had to be rounded up to make the tournament a reality. About half of that, he said, comes from the host community, mostly in the form of sponsorships and ticket sales. The other half comes from the PGA Tour. Marovich would not disclose how much of the community’s half came from the sponsorship consortium.

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Bentz: MBJ’s Kemper coverage inaccurate

April 3rd, 2012 1 comment

The Mississippi Public Service Commission held its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday morning, and it was more noteworthy for what happened afterward than what happened during it.

The good news: Southern District Commissioner Leonard Bentz finally spoke with a reporter about Mississippi Power’s lignite coal-fired generation plant in Kemper County. The bad news: It was a brief conversation.

“Y’all haven’t printed one thing that’s accurate,” Bentz said, referring to the Mississippi Business Journal’s coverage of Kemper from the PSC’s 2010 approval of the $2.8 billion plant to the Mississippi Supreme Court’s recent ruling that the Commission’s decision to grant a certificate of public necessity and convenience was not based on “substantial evidence presented.”

Bentz wouldn’t say what he felt was inaccurate. “Just quote that,” he said, walking away and pointing his finger at a reporter. “Quote that.”

Bentz joined Central District Commissioner Lynn Posey in 2010 in granting the certificate for the Kemper plant. Northern District Transportation Commissioner Brandon Presley dissented.

The Mississippi Chapter of the Sierra Club challenged the project in Harrison County Chancery Court, which ruled in favor of MPC. After the Sierra Club appealed, the state’s high court ruled 9-0 that the PSC would have to revisit the facts that led to it approving the project. Last Friday, the PSC voted — with the same split – in a 45-second hearing to temporarily authorize MPC to continue construction on the project.

Posey has not spoken with the media since the court’s decision, either.

Presley has said repeatedly that while he’s not against the use of coal to generate energy, he would rather MPC pay for the project itself, rather than passing the cost through to its ratepayers via increased power bills.

An MPC spokesperson said after last week’s hearing that the company has spent $1.1 billion on the project, most of that paying for the installation of underground utilities.