Baseload Act challenger hopes high court hearing moves forward in wake of settlement
Thomas Blanton’s lawyer hopes Thursday’s Kemper rate case settlement between Mississippi Power Co. and the Mississippi Public Service Commission does not kill his client’s opportunity to air his grievances against the Baseload Act before the Mississippi Supreme Court.
The high court had scheduled oral argument for Monday to hear a dispute between MPC and the PSC over rates for the project. The two entities settled that dispute Thursday, in an agreement that lowered the amount the utility can charge its ratepayers for the project from $2.88 billion to $2.4 billion. The disagreement arose over the summer, when commissioners denied a 13 percent rate increase that would have generated about $58 million. Commissioners also said then they would not entertain any more rate increase requests related to construction-work-in-progress money for the coal plant until the Mississippi Supreme Court had ruled on the litigation surrounding it.
The agreement, which allows MPC to ask anew for CWIP funds, still must gain supreme court approval. Justices could still force the parties to appear Monday, or they could cancel the hearing.
Blanton, a Hattiesburg resident, has challenged the constitutionality of the Baseload Act, the 2008 law that granted utilities the authority to ask for CWIP funds. His attorney said Friday morning that he hopes to still be able to argue that point Monday.
“If anything, it strengthens my client’s argument,” Adelman said, referring to Thursday’s settlement. ”It’s based on a statute that’s unconstitutional. I don’t understand what basis there is for the commission to change their position, when they said specifically they were going to deny the rate increase until there was a decision by the Mississippi Supreme Court.”
Attorneys for the PSC and MPC on Friday morning filed motions with the supreme court asking justices to dismiss the rate dispute and Blanton’s claim. Adelman filed a motion to oppose the dismissal. The court had not decided as of early Friday afternoon whether to proceed with Monday’s hearing, which was still scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.