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Mississippi Power considers lignite plant in Kemper County

Mississippi Power is considering building a $1.8 billion plant in Kemper County that would convert locally mined lignite, or “brown coal,” into a gas to generate lower-emission electricity, company officials said Tuesday.

The company is receiving a $133 million federal tax incentives for the proposed project.

Anthony Topazi, president and CEO of Mississippi Power, said at a news conference in Jackson that the Kemper County site one of several options the company is considering to expand production. He said the company would need financial help from the state and county, but he didn’t specify what kind.

If the plant it built, officials said it could be completed by 2013.

David Ratcliffe is the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Atlanta-based Southern Co., which owns Mississippi Power. He said Southern Co. has spent millions of dollars over the past 15 years researching “clean coal technologies.”

“We’re now moving from the research lab to practical application,” Ratcliffe said Tuesday.

Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said in a news release from Mississippi Power that the new plant would “help strengthen America’s economy and protect our national security, making us less dependent on unpredictable, sometimes hostile, foreign nations for our energy needs.”

Company officials, Gov. Haley Barbour and U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., held news conferences Tuesday in Jackson and Meridian to announce the plans for the Kemper County project.

“This project brings hope and the promise of a brighter future to east Mississippi, an area of the state that can certainly benefit from it,” Barbour said in the company’s statement.

The plant is expected to create about 540 jobs during construction and 260 jobs once the building is complete, Mississippi Power said.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman late last month announced $1 billion in federal tax incentives had been awarded to nine companies “to bring about rapid deployment of advanced coal-based power generation and gasification technologies.”

The Department of Energy said Nov. 30 that Mississippi Power is receiving $133 million in tax incentives to build a plant in Kemper County, which borders Alabama north of Lauderdale County and Meridian.

Mississippi Power has customers in 23 counties in the southeastern part of the state.

The tax incentives were authorized as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which focuses on clean energy, efficient energy use, energy conservation and advanced technologies.