MS Power, PSC and customers react to Supreme Court decision - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

MS Power, PSC and customers react to Supreme Court decision

Mississippi Power customer pays a bill Thursday afternoon in Gulfport. (Photo source: WLOX) Mississippi Power customer pays a bill Thursday afternoon in Gulfport. (Photo source: WLOX)
SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) -

It looks like the 186,000 Mississippi Power customers will get their refund after all. The Mississippi Supreme Court's refusal to rehear its February ruling now forces Mississippi Power to refund to customers the $257 million in rate fees it collected since 2013 to pay for the Kemper County lignite plant.

The majority of Mississippi Supreme Court justices denied the rehearing request, because they still think the Public Service Commission did not follow the law when it authorized Mississippi Power's rate hike to pay for the Kemper County power plant.

It's not that they don't want Mississippi Power to recover costs through a rate increase, they just want the law followed. However, some people, even customers, don't think the result of the decision is good news.

The Supreme Court's decision was not exactly a shocker, but it left Mississippi Power and the Public Service Commission scratching their heads.

Power company spokesman Jeff Shepard said in a news release, "While we are certainly disappointed with the decision, we continue to do everything reasonable to protect the interests of our customers and company."

When Mississippi Power first pitched the Kemper County lignite plant, it said the project would cost a little more than $2 billion. As construction costs escalated, the PSC and power company put a cap on rate increases, meaning that the company could recoup only the first $2.8 billion.

Today, the company admits the cost of Kemper is now at least $6.2 billion.

In May, Mississippi Power officials submitted three rate proposals in anticipation of this decision, but in any scenario, there is still going to be a rate hike. The result of Thursday's decision, according to Southern District Public Service Commissioner Steve Renfroe, may not be good news for customers in the long run.

“They will likely receive a refund and a reduction of rates, but then, the commission is still faced with having to increase rates to pay for Kemper,” Renfroe said. “And so, just almost assuredly, there will be a rate increase in the future, and that rate increase could be greater than it would have been otherwise.”

If given the choice, some customers prefer to keep rates low, even if it means no refund.

“I would prefer to have the decrease,” said Ted Jones, of Gulfport. “Instead of having the money, I would prefer to have a better rate on my bill. That's what I would prefer.”

Others want their money and lower rates.

“I would love to have the money back,” said Sylvia Davis, of Gulfport. “I don't want the rates to go higher, because it's high enough. If it goes any higher, I'm going to have a hard time paying my light bill."

“I would prefer to get the refund and pay what really is due. I don't think they should be overcharging the public for what they do,” added James Gammage, of Gulfport.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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    Thursday, June 11 2015 3:19 PM EDT2015-06-11 19:19:17 GMT
    Thursday, June 11 2015 5:03 PM EDT2015-06-11 21:03:49 GMT
    The Mississippi Supreme Court has rejected rehearing motions filed by Mississippi Power and the state's Public Service Commission following its decision earlier this year that the power company would have to refund $257 million in rate hikes back to its 186,000 customers.More >>
    The Mississippi Supreme Court has rejected rehearing motions filed by Mississippi Power and the state's Public Service Commission following its decision earlier this year that the power company would have to refund $257 million in rate hikes back to its 186,000 customers.More >>
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