Leadership change may be tied to Kemper Co. cost overruns

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Nobody will say if Ed Day's retirement is based on cost overruns at Mississippi Power's Kemper County plant. However, WLOX News has learned the MS Public Service Commission has been asking for timelines pertaining to cost overruns at the plant since last summer. And those timelines didn't appear until last week, after Public Service Commissioner Leonard Bentz says he contacted Mississippi Power's parent company, the Southern Company.

"I'm aware that on one occasion at least, an employee has been directed by Ed Day to withhold information from the Public Service Commission," Bentz told WLOX News.

That information, said Bentz, focused on when the Kemper County cost overruns were known.

"We wanted a timeline that involved all the cost overruns, and when Mississippi Power knew about them," said Bentz.

In March, the Public Service Commission reaffirmed an order to let Mississippi Power raise rates to recover its Kemper County construction costs. The rate increase would cover the $2.4 billion ratepayers were responsible to pay for that plant.

In May, 2012, Mississippi Power announced a $360 million cost overrun at the Kemper County plant. And this spring, the company said construction would cost an additional $600 million. However, the company noted, that increase would not be passed on to ratepayers.

Bentz said the construction price tag raised red flags. When the commissioner questioned the cost overruns, and didn't get answers, he reached out to the Southern Company's president Tom Fanning.

Since then, WLOX News has learned a vice president at Kemper County has been let go. And now, Mississippi Power president Ed Day has retired, effective immediately.

"Tom assured me actions would be taken," Bentz said.

The Public Service Commissioner also noted his agency may have received incorrect financial information on the Kemper County plant. Consequently, Bentz said, "I'm also aware that the 2012 books of Mississippi Power Company will have to be opened back up."

Monday, Mississippi Power's board of directors announced G. Edison Holland as their new president and CEO, replacing Ed Day.

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