Small group protests Mississippi Power project plans

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Sierra Club and two other groups held a protest Thursday afternoon outside Mississippi Power Company's headquarters in downtown Gulfport.

About ten people showed up and voiced their opposition to the company's plans to build a new power plant in Kemper County. Their main concern is a proposed rate increase which would help finance that project.

Representatives from the Gulf Restoration Network and the citizens group, "Mississippi for Affordable Energy" joined the Sierra Club president in calling for increased accountability for what's already been spent on the Kemper project.

"If this project is so good, then Mississippi Power needs to come clean and let the folks of the 23 counties, the rate payers of the 23 counties, the people of the coast, know how their money is being spent, if they're being asked to reimburse that," said Louie Miller with the Sierra Club.

Bill Bishop said he doesn't dispute the need for a new power plant, but is strongly against financing that plant on the backs of current customers.

"Let them tend to their own business like we all must do. And leave us rate payers out of this loop until such a time as they have power to sell from this power plant. Then I'm willing to pay whatever the proper rate is," said Bishop, who lives in Lamar County.

"We feel like this will save our customers," Mississippi Power Spokesperson Cindy Duvall said. "By financing the construction costs of the plant, that will save our customers $183,000,000 over the life of the plant, by us doing it this way. It is done this way in the United States with 43 other states."

"Mississippi Power Company sees a way to make a big profit on the backs of the rate payers in the lower 23 counties. And we are going to say no. We are going to say no to Mississippi Power Company," said Linda St. Martin, who represents Mississippi for Affordable Energy.

"We have a responsibility as a utility to make sure that when our customers turn on the lights, something happens. We need to provide them with a reliable electric service at the lowest cost possible. And Kemper County IGCC is how we're going to do it," said Duvall.

Both sides will be speaking out during the upcoming public hearings on the project, before the Public Service Commission. The hearing will take place in Jackson, February 1-5.

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