Fitch downgrades Miss. Power’s credit rating after rate increase denied

July 3rd, 2012 No comments

Fitch Ratings on Tuesday downgraded Mississippi Power Co.’s Issuer Default  from “A” to A-.”

Fitch also revised the company’s rating outlook from “stable” to “negative.”

The rating agency said the downgrades were in response to the Mississippi Public Service Commission’s order from late June in which commissioners denied a revenue increase the company had requested in connection with the Kemper County coal plant. MPC officials testified at a hearing that in order to raise about $58 million to apply toward the plant, customer rates would need to increase by 13 percent.

In denying the rate increase, commissioners said they would take no action on rate increases associated with the Kemper facility until the Mississippi Supreme Court has its say on litigation surround it. The Sierra Club currently has the issue before a Harrison County chancellor for the second time.

No matter the outcome at the chancery court level, it’s expected to reach the state’s high court again.

Fitch also expressed concern with the 15 percent cost overrun MPC revealed to monitors in May. Currently, the plant’s projected cost sits at $2.76 billion, 15 percent more than the original estimate of $2.4 billion.

“Fitch’s financial analysis indicates that if the project becomes operational within the currently projected capital costs and schedule, and based on the assumption that the MPSC authorizes a timely recovery of both capital and operating costs, Mississippi Power’s credit metrics are expected to revert to Fitch’s guideline ratios of a low risk ‘A-‘ rated utility company by 2015,” Fitch said in a press release. “Until then, however, Fitch expects Mississippi Power’s credit metrics to remain considerably weak.”

Prof.: Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling focuses on law, not politics

June 28th, 2012 No comments

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Thursday to uphold nearly every portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, which said the PPACA’s most controversial part – the individual mandate – was essentially a tax. Justices also ruled that states have the option of declining to participate in an expansion of the Medicaid program without penalty. The mandate and the Medicaid expansion have been at the heart of Republican and conservative opposition to PPACA.

Matt Steffey, professor of law at Jackson’s Mississippi College School of Law, wasn’t surprised by Thursday’s ruling. He said it’s clear justices cast aside three years’ worth of emotional arguments for and against PPACA and concentrated on its legal validity.

“If you take the political rhetoric out of this and just read the statute, it’s a tax saying that people who don’t have health insurance will pay higher taxes than people who do,” Steffey said. “I always thought there was an easy way to uphold (the mandate) as a tax, and the chief justice obviously agreed. Just like the pardon issue here in Mississippi, this is right on the law.”

Joining Roberts were justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Dissenting justices issued a statement in which they said the mandate and the potential denial of state’s Medicaid funding for not participating in PPACA’s expansion of the program was an overreach of federal power.

Steffey said that states can opt out of the Medicaid expansion without losing their federal funding for the program was a “modest victory.” The biggest winner, Steffey said, was Pres. Obama, who made healthcare reform a big part of his campaign in 2008.

Obama won’t be the only political winner, though, Steffey said.

“Honestly, I think this plays out a little bit better for Mitt Romney,” Steffey said. “If they had struck down the law, Obama could have essentially run against the court. Now, it somewhat relieves Gov. Romney of the duty of having to put out a healthcare vision of his own. Politically, this is better for Gov. Romney than striking down the law because it’s an issue that will keep money pouring in and invigorate the base.”

The issue is far from settled. Congress can still make changes to the healthcare law, or repeal it entirely. Republicans were setting the stage for such by mid-morning Thursday.

“Only a full repeal of this overreaching law will allow Americans to receive the care that they need, from the doctors that they choose, at a cost that they can afford,” said Gregg Harper, who represents Mississippi’s Third District.

Closer to home, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement that the court’s ruling “does not change the fact that Obamacare raises taxes on Americans and expands the bureaucracy of our health care system.”

Group pushing to limit Gulf oil and gas development to hold forum Thursday in Gulfport

June 26th, 2012 No comments

A group that wants to limit oil and gas production to areas of the Gulf of Mexico at least 12 nautical miles south of the Mississippi Barrier Islands is holding a public forum Thursday night in Gulfport to talk about that initiative.

The 12 Miles South Coalition, made up of business and community leaders from the Gulf Coast, will hold what it’s calling “an evening of education and dialogue” about plans to open Mississippi waters to oil and gas exploration and drilling. Panelists – which will include representatives from Gulf Islands National Seashore, the Gulf Restoration Network and the Mississippi Gulf Coast CVB – will go over potential impact to the Coast’s environment and economy drilling that close to the Barrier Islands could have.

Currently, areas leased for exploration and/or production come as close as a mile south of the islands. The Mississippi Development Authority accepted comments on the proposals earlier this year. In March, the Sierra Club and the Gulf Restoration Network sued to stop the implementation of the plans.

In 2004, the Mississippi Legislature opened up 38 percent of Mississippi’s portion of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas development. The rest is off limits.

Thursday’s forum starts at 6 p.m. at the Handsboro Community Center on Switzer Road. It is free and open to the public. For more information, visit or


June 28 ceremony to mark Nissan milestones

June 21st, 2012 No comments

There will be a ceremony next Thursday, June 28, at the Nissan plant in Canton to celebrate a few of the facility’s recent achievements.

A press release says state, local and company officials will gather with Nissan employees to mark the company’s “growth strategy to expand production and job creation in Mississippi.” The plant started producing the 2013 Altima June 7. This fall, the Frontier midsize pickup and the Xterra SUV will shift production to Canton, from the company’s Smyrna, Tenn., plant. The Titan truck and Armada SUV have been made at the plant since it came online in 2003. Production of the NV commercial vehicle started a couple years ago.

Overall, the plant has the capacity to make more than 400,000 vehicles per year, and employs over 3,300 people.

The release also says that Nissan and political officials will review what the two entities are doing to expand manufacturing in Mississippi and beyond. The plant, which employs 3,300 people, was Mississippi’s first automotive plant. Toyota became the second last November.




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Need a voter ID? Hosemann wants to hear from you

June 18th, 2012 8 comments

One of the arguments opponents of voter ID have used is that identification can be hard for some folks to obtain.

The bill passed this past legislative session – in response to last fall’s ballot initiative – contains provisions for a free ID for those who need one to satisfy the law’s requirements. (The Associated Press reported in May that the free ID provision has not yet been fully funded.) Of course, the statute won’t take effect until it gets preclearance from the Justice Department or a panel of federal judges in D.C.  A lot of Democrats and Republicans think that’s a long shot.

In case it does happen, though, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is trying to streamline the process of obtaining a free ID.

Hosemann said Monday his office is trying to find “as many people as possible” who need a voter ID, so their information can already be in the system if/when the law is approved.

“If an individual does not have an acceptable form of identification, we encourage them to contact our office,” Hosemann said in a press release Monday.

There are a few ways to do that. You can call 1-800-868-3745, email, or visit

Acceptable forms of ID are:

A current and valid Mississippi driver’s license

A current and valid ID card issued by a branch, department, agency or entity of the state

A current and valid U.S. passport

A current and valid employee ID card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by any branch, department, agency or entity of the federal government, the state, or any county, municipality, board, authority or other entity of the state

A current and valid Mississippi firearms license to carry a pistol or revolver

A U.S. military ID

A valid tribal photo ID

A student photo ID issued by a Mississippi university, college or community college

Categories: Delbert Hosemann Tags:

Deadline near to volunteer for True South Classic

June 14th, 2012 No comments

The True South Classic (formerly the Viking Classic) tees off in just over a month, and is in need of volunteers.

The tournament, which starts July 16 at Annandale, hopes to round up 1,200 folks willing to work for free. A press release says spots are still available, but doesn’t say how many.

What is known is that the deadline to sign up is Monday, June 18, and the fee for doing so is $40. Volunteers will be assigned to at least one of 10 committees, whose job descriptions will range from walking scorers to assisting the Golf Channel. Entrants can choose a preferred committee, but officials make no guarantees about assignments.

The $40 registration fee gets you a pile of stuff organizers claim is worth more than $300 – a cap or visor, golf shirt, five guest tickets good any day of the tournament, meals and an invitation to the Volunteer Appreciation Party. A parking pass is part of the deal, too.

Volunteer labor is a big part of the tournament’s fundraising for charity. Last year, according to figures from True South officials, more than $490,000 went to Mississippi Charities.

To sign up, or to see a complete list of volunteer committees, visit or call (601) 898-GOLF.


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Gulfport nonprofit wins new Toyota as part of 100 Cars for Good

June 11th, 2012 No comments

Toyota recently kicked off 100 Cars for Good, an initiative that will award a new car to 100 nonprofits through late August.

Among the first 25 organizations to receive a car was Feed My Sheep, a  faith-based program that provides nourishment to the homeless, homebound and the needy in the Gulfport area.

Winners are determined by an online vote on and via Facebook. Feed My Sheep learned June 7 that it had beaten four other nonprofits for the right to a new Toyota. (Toyota will profile five nonprofits on its 100 Cars for Good Facebook page each day until August 21 before users vote for who should receive a car.)

Winning is a big deal for Feed My Sheep. According to the organization’s website, it delivered 7,504 meals to the homebound in May 2012. A new Toyota could certainly help with that part of Feed My Sheep’s outreach.

To learn more about Feed My Sheep click here. To see all the nonprofits that won a car in the first round of 100 Cars for Good, click here.

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Miss. Power: Kemper costs to exceed original estimate by 15 percent

June 8th, 2012 No comments

Mississippi  Power Co. announced late Friday afternoon that the Kemper county coal plant’s costs are close to butting up against the $2.88 billion cap the Public Service Commission imposed on the project.

A company press release says the news was revealed during a meeting with independent monitors. It does not say how far along construction is. It also does not say when the meeting in which the cost information was revealed took place. There was a meeting set for early May between monitors and the company to address the project’s contingency being close to depletion.

The plant’s latest figures would have been included in the independent monitor’s June report. The monthly reports have not been made readily available to the public as far as being posted on the PSC website like the orders and various other filings  associated with the project have been.  The Mississippi Business Journal filed an open records request on June 1 for the June report.

The release also does not say how far along construction is. The PSC voted 2-1 — Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley was the dissenting vote — April 24 to reissue Kemper’s certificate. Part of the order granting that certificate said that monitors and company officials would meet in early May to discuss the dwindling contingency and other matters.

Here’s the press release, verbatim:

Mississippi Power, in its monthly meeting with the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) Independent Construction Monitors, reports the Kemper plant construction is progressing on schedule and continues to be the best generation option for customers. The plant will be on line May 2014 and immediately begin saving customers on fuel costs.

The construction costs are currently projected to be approximately $2.76 billion or 15 percent above the original construction estimate prepared in 2009. The PSC established a cost cap of $2.88 billion for plant construction.

 Mississippi Power will deliver additional economic value for the Project from increased byproduct sales, such as CO2, and savings from lower financing costs. Because of these benefits to customers, the new estimate will not increase the rate impact of Kemper.

 “We are committed to bringing the Kemper Project on line, within the cost cap, to provide clean, safe and reliable energy to our customers,” said Cindy Duvall, company spokeswoman. “We work every day to find ways to bring value to our customers while preparing to meet their future energy needs.”

 Mississippi Power, a Southern Company subsidiary, serves approximately 188,000 customers in 23 southeast Mississippi counties.


Hosemann: Deadline for Morgan Keegan claims approaching

June 7th, 2012 1 comment

Eligible investors have until June 16 to file their claim for a portion of the Morgan Keegan settlement.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said at a news conference Thursday morning that only about 800 of 2,400 Mississippians due settlement funds have submitted a claim. The $200 million settlement was reached after regulators accused Morgan Keegan of misleading its investors about the dangers of certain proprietary bond funds.

In Mississippi, Hosemann said, more than $70 million in losses were incurred. “And there’s still a lot of money out there because not all Mississippians who need to have filed their claims,” he said. Hosemann said his office has sent letters and placed phone calls to investors, but his staff hasn’t been able to reach some of them. If you held one or more of Morgan Keegan’s bond funds between early 2007 and early 2008, you’re most likely eligible for a check, Hosemann said.

The June 16 deadline applies only to the $100 million of the settlement that states will distribute. The Securities and Exchange Commission will distribute the second half of the $200 million. It’s important that claimants participate in the state portion of the distribution for a couple reasons, Hosemann said. The first is that the SEC will have vital contact information when it comes time for that agency to start mailing checks.

The second, and most important, is that this $200 million will be distributed no matter how many eligible investors participate. There will be no surplus. It’s possible an investor could receive more money back than he or she lost because enough folks didn’t file a claim.

“Don’t let someone else get your money,” Hosemann said. “Get your name in the hat.”

To do that, contact Hosemann’s office at (601) 359-6742. Or, investors can call A.B. Data, the company handling the claims process, at (800) -208-9083.

Categories: Delbert Hosemann, Morgan Keegan Tags:

Want MyCar video? You’re in luck

June 5th, 2012 No comments

If you’ve read this week’s issue of the Mississippi Business Journal, you probably saw on the cover the news that GreenTech Automotive will launch the MyCar July 6 in Horn Lake.

It’s the first tangible product GreenTech will have since the company’s arrival in Mississippi a couple years ago. (Plans for the Tunica facility include starting production there late next year. The company isn’t saying what the facility will produce.)

The MyCar isn’t street legal in the U.S., meaning you couldn’t, for instance, commute from Fondren to Downtown Jackson in it. You could, however, go from one neighborhood house to another. That’s a big reason why a lot of the MyCars will be sold overseas initially, where they are more common and less frowned upon legally.

Included with the story is a photo of the MyCar. For a better understanding of its size, look and capability, click here. It’s a video from an event in Bornholm, Denmark, in 2010 that features a lot of talking by GTA chairman Terry McAuliffe — who political folks will recognize as former head of the Democratic National Committee — but does offer some pretty good footage of the MyCar.

GTA plans to hold some kind of ceremony July 6, when it launches the MyCar in Horn Lake. It most likely won’t be as audacious as Toyota’s kickoff last November. Nevertheless, the MBJ plans on being there.

Categories: GreenTech, Horn Lake, Terry McAuliffe, Tunica Tags: