4/29/2010 6:30:00 PM Sierra Club issues statement on Kemper lignite plant
The Mississippi Sierra Club issued the following statement on the Kemper County lignite plant:
"The Mississippi Public Service Commission (MPSC) unanimously recognized today that the Kemper coal plant proposed by Southern Company subsidiary Mississippi Power posed too much risk for Mississippi ratepayers. All three Commissioners recognized that the project as proposed by Mississippi Power would leave ratepayers on the hook for skyrocketing costs, and was not in the public interest.
"The Commission got it right on this aspect of Mississippi Power's proposal," said Louie Miller, Director of the Mississippi Chapter of the Sierra Club. "The company had made it clear that the company would not accept any of the financial and pollution risks, so that left just one place for them to go: on the backs of the customers."
"Two commissioners indicated, however, that the project would pass muster if construction costs were capped at $2.4 billion dollars, and other operating goals were met. Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley dissented from this aspect of the decision, finding that the project could quickly become "too big to fail," leaving ratepayers saddled with big rate increases. Commissioner Presley also noted that a proceeding was currently pending before the Commission to further assess energy efficiency possibilities.
"Miller also expressed concern that any conditions on approval would be too little and too late to help ratepayers. "You're talking about, for example, the environmental liability of stripmining a big chunk of Kemper County," Miller said. "There's no way to protect ratepayers from that kind of risk. Mississippi Power needs to take a realistic look at energy efficiency first, and then assess needs for new generation."
"Even if the conditions set by the two commissioners are met, the Kemper project still faces many hurdles including challenges over air and water permits and approvals for financing from the Department of Energy.
"If Kemper goes forward, it will stand in stark contrast to current trends in the electric sector. No new coal plants have started construction in the last 18 months because of opposition to high costs, declining energy needs, and concerns about global warming pollution. Southern Company is currently considering retiring some of its older coal plants in Georgia because of the changing circumstances."