KEMPER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi Power is suspending the use of lignite coal at its Kemper County Energy Facility.
The power company informed the Mississippi Public Service Commission of the decision Wednesday, saying the plant will continue to operate using natural gas. The plant has been producing power using natural gas since 2014.
The decision comes one week after the PSC passed a motion to prepare an order concerning the troubled project. Commissions are demanding answers about the plant and urging the company to lower rates for customers.
Mississippi Power says it made the call to suspend lignite operations to "preserve the safety and health of the workforce and safety of the facility, while still retaining the necessary workforce to operate the combined cycle power plant."
"We are committed to ensuring the ongoing focus and safety of employees while we consider the future of the project, including any possible actions that may be taken by the Commission," said Southern Company Chairman, President, and CEO Thomas A. Fanning. "We believe this decision is in the best interests of our employees, customers, investors and all other stakeholders."
The commission is expected to present the order to the power company at its July 6 meeting. Commissioners aim to ensure customers won't have to foot the bill for the lignite coal gasifiers and other related assets of the plant. That order will also address the future of the facility.
According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mississippi Power has spent $3.4 billion on the plant over the $4.3 billion eligible for recovery from customers. The July 6 PSC meeting will begin to answer if Mississippi Power will be able to recoup some of those costs or if it will get stuck with the $3.4 billion price tag for overruns.