JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Tuesday, the final chapter was written in the long-running Kemper County lignite power plant novel. Members of the Mississippi Public Service Commission signed off on a final settlement with Mississippi Power.
The hearing lasted just ten minutes, and the vote was unanimous. Kemper County will now burn natural gas, not lignite coal. The power company will write off $6.4 billion in losses.
Despite the controversy and financial losses suffered by the power company, most involved are now breathing a sigh of relief.
"What we've done with this agreement is get the best possible agreement that we could," Commissioner Sam Britton said. "The end result is we will not have a rate increase, in fact, there will be a rate decrease. And we will have natural gas produced by the Kemper plant."
Mississippi Power officials can now move forward. Anthony Wilson is the company president.
"If you were to poll all the constituents, I think they would be very glad that we're at the end of this," Wilson said. "It's been a tough journey. I believe that the stipulated agreement that was entered into by a multitude of party's results in a good outcome, especially for our customers."
But longtime Kemper critic Thomas Blanton warned further court action is not out of the question.
"We recognize seven good things that we could take across the street to the supreme court and have this set aside. One of those issues the is changing of the certificate from coal to natural gas," Blanton said.
But PSC President Brandon Presley doesn't see it that way.
"We actually had a rate case in which we allowed certain charges for the natural gas part of the facility to be put into rates, and no one made that argument then. We're well within our statutory authority to issue the order we issued today and I think the court will uphold it," Presley explained.
Now, can the power company uphold a business model stung by huge losses?
"Six billion dollars is a lot of money, but Southern Company is a very strong company, a very big company and they have stood with Mississippi Power all the way through this process," Wilson said.
"We probably need to have a discussion about the process about how we move forward with these projects and what we do. Because good people can make bad decisions," Britton said.
As part of the settlement, Mississippi Power will also sell off land adjacent to the plant. That property is valued at $18 million. The proceeds from that sale will be rebated back to customers.
Mississippi Power released the following as its official statement on Tuesday's action: