MS Power can build Kemper County plant, with a catch - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

MS Power can build Kemper County plant, with a catch

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi Public Service Commission on Thursday granted Mississippi Power's request to build a lignite plant in Kemper County. However, commissioners told the company they cannot charge customers up front to build the new plant. And the PSC ruled the new power source can cost no more than $2.4 billion to build.

"With recent announcements of businesses closing their doors, school districts cutting jobs and unforeseen unemployment there is no way the ratepayer could afford the additional cost of this plant on their bill at this time," Southern District Public Service Commissioner Leonard Bentz said. "The good news is that when the plant comes on line, the economy should be recovered and that means the power generation will be available for new industry, existing businesses and residents in our state."

Mississippi Power Spokesperson Cindy Duvall said the company was disappointed in the commission's decision.

"We put forth the best option available to us to meet our customers' needs with reliable and affordable energy," Duvall said in a statement Thursday. "The Commission conditions seem to make it impossible for Mississippi Power to finance or construct the Kemper County IGCC Project even if the right to construct had been – or might in the future – be allowed."

Mississippi Power said the plant would use a new technology that converts a soft coal called lignite into a gas that would fuel turbines to create electricity. Company officials say the lignite would be locally mined and cheaper than natural gas.

"The elephant in the room is the uncertainty of the Cap and Trade legislation that is being proposed in Washington, D.C., and I can assure you that those regulations will weigh heavily on the pocket books of Mississippians," Bentz said. "This plant will capture approximately 65% of the carbon emissions that are the driving force behind the Cap and Trade legislation. We are going to beat the horse to the gate with clean coal technology."

Opponents, including the Sierra Club, say the plant north of Meridian is not needed and that it would be dirty and expensive.

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