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Poultry association: Kemper could cost jobs in Mississippi

Last week the Mississippi Poultry Association (MPA) said that high electricity rates caused by the $2.4-billion Kemper County IGCC Plant could cause Mississippi to lose jobs in the poultry industry – the state’s largest agricultural industry with a $6 billion and 50,000-job state impact.

“Our folks work on very small margins,” said Mark Leggett, association president.

Leggett wrote a letter on behalf of MPA to the Mississippi Public Service Commission, which passed a conditional approval of the plant on May 26 and subsequently issued Mississippi Power Company (MPC) a certificate of convenience and necessity for its construction.

Leggett stated in the letter that poultry plants in the MPC service area “have been informed by MPCo. that their electric rates will be increasing 33 percent as a consequence of the new Kemper County lignite coal plant. I have since read in the Mississippi Business Journal that those increases could be as high as 45 percent for some customers…we wanted the Commission to know that the rate increases could cost Mississippi plants to lose out in corporate decisions about where to expand.”

Additionally, “The MPA would urge the Mississippi Public Service Commission to ensure that all information about costs to ratepayers of future plants is made public early in the process and not hidden behind a confidentiality shield,” the letter said.

Leggett said in an interview that poultry plant owners were just informed about the rate hike this month.

MPA also expressed concern regarding the rate impacts of expensive environmental improvements to an older MPC facility, Plant Daniel in Jackson County.

MPC has asked the Commission for permission to begin a $625-million Scrubber Project, which would bring Daniel’s coal generating units into compliance with new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Gulf Power owns approximately half of the plant, thus leaving $313 million of the Scrubber Project cost to Mississippi Power’s 190,000 ratepayers.

“It is fully expected that the long-term continued operation of the Plant Daniel coal units will require additional large environmental projects beyond the proposed Scrubber Project,” MPC said in a Commission filing.

“Like all manufacturers, MPA members understand the importance of environmental compliance, but we ask that the (Commission) be mindful of the jobs impact in allowing companies to pass these and other costs on to ratepayers in these difficult economic times,” MPA said in its statement.

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