FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 29, 2012
Contact: Jenna Garland, (404) 607-1262 x 222, (404) 281-6398
PSC Declares Emergency on Kemper Coal Plant, Gives Public Less than 48 Hours to Respond
Mississippi Power Claims “Emergency,” Commission Skirts Required Public Notice
Jackson, MS – In a stunning display of disregard for the public, the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) announced a public hearing on the Kemper County coal plant with less than 48 hours’ notice. In a document released this morning, the Public Service Commission announced a public, open meeting “to discuss and possibly take action” on a temporary operation permit for Mississippi Power’s Kemper County coal plant. In a unanimous 9-0 ruling, the Mississippi Supreme Court revoked Mississippi Power’s permit on March 15, saying that the PSC did not supply sufficient evidence to approve the proposed coal plant project.
“This action on the part of the PSC represents complete and utter contempt for due process,” said Louie Miller, State Director of the Mississippi Sierra Club. “Commissioners Leonard Bentz and Lynn Posey are running rough shod over the public and the law.”
According to the law, the Commission is only able to arrange public meetings with such short notice in emergency situations. There is no emergency situation with the Kemper County coal plant, as the plant is not yet 30% complete and is not generating power.
The most surprising aspect of the Commission order was that Mississippi Power had not yet asked for emergency permission to continue building the ill-fated Kemper project. Mississippi Power only asked for the emergency authorization some six hours after the Commission ordered the hearing.
“The only emergency is for Mississippi Power’s bottom line, as the company is spending three million dollars a day on construction costs, and they expect the PSC to stick the ratepayer with it,” said Linda St. Martin, with Mississippians for Affordable Energy. “The Public Service Commission is not Mississippi Power’s personal errand boy – they are required by law to serve the interest of the public. This is absurd.”
Immediately after the March 15 Supreme Court ruling, Mississippi Power announced it would continue with construction, regardless of the Court’s ruling. Then, on March 23, in a surprise move, the Public Service Commission issued an order requiring Sierra Club and Mississippi Power to submit proposals offering opinions as to why the PSC initially approved the Kemper County coal plant. Essentially, the PSC was asking Mississippi Power to tell the Commission why it approved the coal plant. The deadline for these proposals is Monday, April 2, while the just-announced public meeting on Friday, March 30.
The location, date, and timing of the meeting make it impossible for the ratepayers to attend. Coastal residents will be most impacted by rate increases from the Kemper coal plant, yet the Commission has never held a hearing in Southern Mississippi.
“The PSC’s actions are outrageous and illegal,” said Louie Miller. “The Sierra Club has filed a motion before the state Supreme Court to finalize its ruling, thereby cancelling Mississippi Power’s permits. They are scrambling now, and we’re seeing the PSC scramble to help them. I urge all ratepayers to contact your Public Service Commissioner today and demand due process.”