Kemper County Lignite Plant

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 22, 2014

Are you aware of the many bills passed each year by the Mississippi Legislature, and how your “representatives” voted on at least the major ones? Most people don’t know, or care.
This one should get your attention – the Kemper County Lignite Plant. If you haven’t heard of it yet, you soon will. Our State Legislature, in its infinitesimal wisdom, approved in 2008, a bill (the Baseload Act) that puts Mississippi homes and small businesses billions of dollars in debt for that plant. We are on the hook to pay for it through higher utility bills, which are estimated to increase from 30-60%. Shipyards, refineries, casinos, and other large businesses are exempt from these increases. The two Pearl River County legislators in office in 2008, Mark Formby and Herb Frierson voted yes (as did others who are no longer in office). Remember that next year when they want to be re-elected.
Is it too late to stop this? I’m not sure, but I have read that it’s possible for the Public Service Commission to rule that the plan was “imprudent.” The plant could then be converted into a natural gas plant, and Southern Company, the parent company of Mississippi Power, could be forced to eat the loss.
The Kemper plant is the first of its kind. It is unproven technology. It might not work. This is a high-risk venture capital project, which we will finance through our utility bills. And Southern Company benefits if it works, as it will get the patent on the process. Mississippians, however, will get the bill either way. No bank would have ever financed this project, which is a year behind schedule and more than 120 percent over budget. Risky or imprudent doesn’t even begin to describe this fiasco.
Will it be stopped? Probably not, because the powerful politicians who backed this idiocracy would have to admit their mistakes. Do you hear the name Haley Barbour once again “helping” the good citizens of Mississippi? As we have seen in the recent election, he pulls all the strings for Mississippi’s politicians, and the Southern Company just happens to be a client of his lobbying firm. So don’t hold your breath for this bridge to nowhere being stopped. A lot of money was spent lobbying the state legislature to change the law allowing the risk of financing this plant to be shifted from its stockholders to its customers, even if the plant is never put into service!
Politicians are always looking out for us, it seems. Would they raise our taxes by 30-60 percent to pay for this plant? They would be run out of office on a rail. But because they shifted the cost to our utility rates, no need for us to even know that they are responsible for the increase.
More recently, the Legislature rubber-stamped the Public Service Commission’s plan to issue $1 billion in bonds to pay for overruns, whose principal and interest will be paid by Mississippi homes and businesses. This is a face saving measure to delay the wrath of the voters by borrowing more of someone else’s money.
Why don’t we hold our legislators responsible? Why do we allow this to continue?

By Donna Kenzevich

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