Kemper County power plant on schedule

KEMPER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Thousands of people are working at a feverish pace to construct Mississippi Power's new Lignite power plant in Kemper County. Driving through the plant, you can't help but notice the way the landscape is changing on a daily basis.

"In total, we are about 70 percent complete with the project as a whole. In terms of construction, we're about a third of the way complete," said Project Manager Stacey Miles.

Even with construction going full tilt, the permitting process still plays an important role, according to John Templeton an environmental specialist with the power company.

"Mississippi Power is working with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and other regulatory agencies in trying to meet and often exceed our permit requirements," Templeton explained.

South Mississippi Electric Power Association, based in Hattiesburg, is a partner in the venture, with a 15 percent stake. For that company, it's a good fit. Jeanetta Bennett is a communications specialist with the company.

"We are diversifying our fuel source, which lowers the impact of one fuel source being and increasing," Bennett said.

Obviously, when you're building something this big, a lot of men and women have to be working on it.  In fact, 12,000 direct and indirect statewide jobs involved in the Kemper County facility. And that means a big economic boost for the central part of the state.

"It is a great economic development tool for our area," said Meridian Mayor Cheri Barry. "So once again, it's a wonderful partnership with Mississippi Power in building those relationships. It's going to see that everyone grows in our area."

But the most important question is: Is the project on schedule?

"We are on target to meet our May of '14 commercial operation date," Miles said. "We still have a lot of construction activities underway, however we are going to begin commissioning a lot of the components very soon."

The price tag for the lignite plant is $2.88 billion.

A lawsuit challenging the construction of the plant was filed this year by the Sierra Club. A hearing on that challenge was held last month in Harrison County chancery court.  At this time, there's been no ruling handed down.

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