JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - The Public Service Commission on Thursday ordered Mississippi Power to enter into settlement agreements with all parties involved in the Kemper County facility.
"Today, we began the 45-day clock ticking for Mississippi Power and the other parties to case to work to get a settlement and to get this issue resolved," said PSC Commissioner Brandon Presley."We've set three very strong principals. One of them is no rate increase. The second being the plant be re-licensed as a natural gas facility, and thirdly the technology related to the coal gasifier is something that the ratepayers of Mississippi Power are on the hook for."
Rates that are currently in effect will stay that way, meaning the 15 percent increase granted two years ago will stay in place. However, PSC commissioners also suggested that no additional rate increases be requested.
In the opinion of PSC commissioner Sam Britton, there's no turning back at this point.
"The process is now in effect. It is now an official order from the commission, therefore the clock has started," said Britton. "The objective we hope is to find a final resolution to Kemper."
Both Mississippi Power and its parent Southern Company have already lost billions on Kemper, and Britton addressed concerns.
"I am aware of the financial situation they're in, but we're sitting here posed with the responsibility of making just and fair decisions that are reasonable and we want to be fair to all concerned," Britton explained.
A long-time critic of the Kemper County facility, Thomas Blanton - who sued Mississippi Power two years ago and won - was in attendance Thursday.
"It was a terrible idea to being with," Blanton stated. "They started building it with only 15 percent of the drawings done. The estimates were 400 percent under what they are saying now. Most rational businesses would have never got in this deep."
Now the challenge is to dig out of that deep hole, leaving Mississippi Power a strong and viable company and its customers the same.
A written statement from Mississippi Power spokesman Jeff Shepard said, "Today's proceeding is in line with the framework the Commission laid out two weeks ago. We look forward to reviewing the order."