Mississippi Power going coal-free at Plant Watson - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Mississippi Power going coal-free at Plant Watson

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By next spring, Mississippi Power will stop using coal at Plant Watson in Gulfport. The move is part of a settlement with the Sierra Club. In exchange, the environmental group has agreed to withdraw all pending legal and regulatory challenges against Mississippi Power's Kemper project and Plant Daniel.

Right now, Plant Watson has three units that use natural gas, but two coal-fired units are still in use. Those will be converted to natural gas by April 15, 2015.

The company said the decision to convert from coal to gas is part of a settlement with the Sierra Club, and will ensure they are compliant with new federal environmental standards.

"With the repowering, natural gas conversion or retirement of certain units, Mississippi Power's energy mix is expected to be 60 percent powered by natural gas in 2020," said Ed Holland, president and CEO of Mississippi Power. "This further illustrates the importance of the Kemper County energy facility, which will use locally mined, low-cost lignite, in maintaining a diverse fuel mix for our customers."

As part of this settlement agreement, the Sierra Club agreed to dismiss and withdraw all pending legal and regulatory challenges against the Kemper project and Plant Daniel. The group also agreed to refrain from formally intervening in all existing and anticipated regulatory proceedings for those two plants for the next three years.

"Mississippi Power has been working through resource planning options to comply with standards set under federal environmental mandates," continued Holland. "Our first priority has always been ensuring plans are in the best interest of our customers and the environment, which also means that the decisions we make must ensure we are providing clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy for our customers. We believe we have developed a solution that supports all of the above."

Other highlights of the settlement include establishing and funding a $15 million grant for an energy efficiency and renewable energy program with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community Foundation; complying with standards for a 100-year rainfall event when building future retention ponds associated with the Kemper County energy facility; and contributing to a conservation fund for the habitat of the Mississippi gopher frog.

"Our track record of environmental compliance and stewardship in the communities where we live and work is proven," Holland said. "And, for decades we have provided solutions for our customers to save money and energy. This agreement builds on those commitments."

Mississippi Power has also agreed not to oppose certain aspects of the renewable net metering policy development currently being contemplated by the Mississippi Public Service Commission.

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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