For Immediate Release: April 24, 2012
Contact: Jenna Garland, (404) 607-1262 x 222, (404) 281-6398
Louie Miller, (601) 859-1054
PSC Votes to Rubber Stamp Kemper, Bailout Mississippi Power
Sierra Club Will Continue Opposing Dirty, Expensive, Unnecessary Plant
Jackson, MS – The Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) has once again violated state law to approve the Kemper County coal plant, effectively issuing a bailout to Mississippi Power. The PSC held a meeting this morning to consider a proposed order from Mississippi Power asking to change language related to the mandatory cost-caps on the $2.88+ billion coal gasification plant. Following the precedent set in the March 30 meeting, the PSC again met for less than 5 minutes, and refused to hear from the public or counsel.
“Commissioners Leonard Bentz and Lynn Posey just gave Mississippi Power yet another bailout at the expense of the ratepayer. They refused again to listen to the public or even consider the hard facts on Kemper,” said Louie Miller, State Director of the Mississippi Sierra Club. “Leonard Bentz just rubberstamped the changes. These guys are operating in a fact-free zone.”
In a 133-page order, Commissioners Bentz and Posey reversed essentially all of the key findings from the Commission’s earlier orders on Kemper. In April 2010, the Commission included a comprehensive list of findings on the risks to the ratepayer of the Kemper project, and concluded that the Kemper project was not in the public interest and could not be approved unless the cost was capped at $2.4 billion. Today the Commission reversed that finding, and once again gave MPC an extra $500 million, without explaining how this new ruling could be squared with its earlier ruling. Commissioner Brandon Presley issued a dissenting opinion, saying that “re-opening the docket is appropriate.”
Equally striking, the Commission refused to hear evidence that plummeting natural gas prices have rendered Kemper an even worse deal for the ratepayer. The Sierra Club had presented the Commission with expert testimony and evidence that gas prices, now at historic lows, have rendered Kemper a disaster for ratepayers before it is even built.
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. Since that time, the PSC has violated multiple state laws to protect Mississippi Power’s bottom line at the expense of ratepayers.
“This decision is just circling the wagons,” said Glen Hooks, Senior Campaign Representative with Sierra Club. “The two Commissioners just went back and tried to figure out how to justify a decision they had already made. Nobody benefits from this deal but Mississippi Power.”
In two years since the Kemper County coal plant was initially permitted, the economics of coal and competing energy sources have changed substantially. Natural gas prices have fallen to historic lows, making the Kemper plant even more costly and economically unstable than in 2010. Three weeks ago the Sierra Club submitted extensive evidence and expert testimony to the Commission showing that Kemper has become even worse for the ratepayer since it was approved in 2010, and must be reconsidered. However, Commissioners Bentz and Posey have consistently refused to listen to any evidence of new developments since the plant was approved in 2010.
Nationwide, 168 new coal plants have been cancelled since 2001, and 107 plants have been scheduled for retirement. Coal is generating less power for Americans than ever before. Sierra Club continues to call on the Mississippi Public Service Commission to re-open the Kemper County coal plant case, accept new evidence and public comment, and accurately determine whether the plant is a good deal for ratepayers.