PSC: Mississippi Power can't raise rates just yet

By WLOX Staff

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi Public Service Commission will not deviate from already established schedule for consideration of Mississippi Power Co.'s application for a planned $2.2 billion power plant in Kemper County.

In June, Mississippi Power specifically asked the Public Service Commission to determine by Dec. 31 if it could bill pre-construction costs to its customers. The PSC, in an order made public Friday, declined to do so.

Southern District Commissioner Leonard Bentz said in a statement, "The Commission determined that it would stay on the present schedule and consider all of the requests of Mississippi Power on its previously issued schedule. No costs or other matters were denied at this time."

The commissioners said they would consider pre-construction costs as part of the overall application review. The PSC has already laid out a timetable by which it plans to make a final decision on the plant by May 1, 2010.

The PSC's decision not to adjust the review time drew praise from the Mississippi Sierra Club.

"The Mississippi Public Service Commission once again ruled that MS Power Company (MPCO) proposed Kemper County IGCC Lignite Coal plant will not get a 'blank check' from the ratepayers as demanded by the MPCO attorneys," said Louie Miller of the Mississippi Sierra Club. (Click here to read the entire statement.)

"MPCO was vying heavily for the ratepayers to 'pick up the tab' for $60 plus million dollars in 'preplanning costs' the company has incurred to date on the proposed project which has not even received approval by the MPSC."

Mississippi Power responded to what it called "erroneous information" from the Sierra Club, as did Commissioner Bentz.

In a statement sent to WLOX News, Bentz cautioned rate-payers of the Sierra Club's praise. "The same individuals (Sierra Club) who are claiming victory are also the same individuals who are fighting for mandatory Cap-and-Trade legislation in Washington, D.C. that will inevitably increase the electric bills of all rate-payers in Mississippi by as much as fifty percent."

Mississippi Power CEO Anthony Topazi said, "It is normally not our practice to acknowledge such erroneous information. However, when it affects our customers, we feel it is our responsibility to set the record straight."

The company statement read in part, "The IGCC plant is what is commonly called a 'clean coal technology plant.' This plant will be as clean as the gas plants that the Sierra Club is insisting Mississippi Power use instead. In fact, the Congress of the United States has passed legislation that endorses this technology and provides several hundred million dollars to Mississippi Power and its customers to aid in construction of this clean coal plant. Congress recently approved new legislation that will make it possible for Mississippi Power to apply for approximately $200 million of additional incentives for construction of this new clean coal plant." (Click here to read the entire statement.)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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