Mississippi Power's proposed rate hikes have locals outraged

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Thursday afternoon, residents, community advocates and business owners held a meeting to talk about the proposed rate hikes to help pay for Mississippi Power's Kemper County plant.

Governor Phil Bryant signed two bills on Tuesday signifying Mississippi Power costumer's rates are going up.

According to a release from the power company, customers will be expected to pay around 20 percent more on their bill over the next seven years to cover the cost of the new plant.

Many locals do not approve of the increase so they met at the Isiah Fredericks Community Center in Gulfport to voice their opposition to these new laws.

"Everything about this is dirty, wrong," said Shirley Phipps.

"Our people cannot afford that. It's inhumane," said president of the Gulfport NAACP Ruth Story.

"I think it's time for Mississippi Power to step up to the plate and take some responsibility," said Linda St. Martin with the Sierra Club.

The meeting began with harsh words from people just hoping their voice makes a difference.

Howard Page with the STEPS Coalition is concerned with how Mississippi Power's Kemper County plant is affecting the community.

"You're just raising rates, but you're getting the same power you got last month. So, it's a huge increase cost and no real benefit," said Page.

Patricia Harvey is upset that customers are being asked to pay for a service they aren't even using yet.

"This is a tax. This is not a rate increase. We are paying for something that we are not using and it's not even projected to come online until 2014," said Harvey.

Linda St. Martin has been a vocal opponent of the Kemper County plant since the beginning.

She said these issues could have been a avoided if Mississippi Power had looked at building a plant powered by solar and wind energy.

"Apparently the power company doesn't know it's the 21st century. In a cold, cloudy climate like Germany, one-third of their power is generated from solar," said St. Martin.

Others, like Ruth Story, the president of the Gulfport NAACP, feel the increased rates could actually put lives in danger here on the Coast.

"In the Summer, some will die from the heat because they will not be able to afford air conditioning in their home," said Story.

They said they have valid concerns. So, they're taking the message to Jackson next week.

They want everyone to join so their voice is heard loud and clear at the meeting of the Public Service Commission.

"What we would ask is that the bad decisions being made by Southern Company be paid for by Southern Company," said Page.

A spokesperson from Mississippi Power said, while customers are seeing an initial rate increase to pay for the new facility, they will save money in the long run. The plant is powered by lignite from right here in Mississippi, rather than traditional fuels.

The seven year rate plan still has to be approved by the Public Service Commission before it can take effect. The Commission is expected to look at the plan at their meeting on Tuesday.

If approved, customers would see the effect on their bill as early as April.

The group that met Thursday plans to be at that Public Service Commission Meeting to voice their opposition.

There will be a charter bus leaving for Jackson on Tuesday.

One bus will leave at 7 a.m. from Gulfport, at the Barnes and Noble parking lot. It's located at Crossroads Mall off Highway 49.

There will also be a bus leaving from Ocean Springs at 6:30 a.m. from the car park off exit 50 from I-10.

For more information call 228-324-4028.

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