Regulators stand firm, back Kemper critics

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Mississippi Power

A photo, taken in September, 2016, shows Mississippi Power Co.'s Kemper County plant, located about 20 miles north of Meridian.

The tug-of-war between Mississippi Power Co. and state utility regulators continued Tuesday with state officials denying the utility’s request to strike the testimonies of several people who have criticized the Kemper County energy facility.

Mississippi Power in previous filings argued the testimonies are either outside the scope of or irrelevant to these proceedings.

Mississippi Public Service Commission chairman Brandon Presley said the expedited review Mississippi Power requested of the commission Tuesday was not “noticed as a hearing,” and not all involved parties were present.

The commission could make its decision on which costs can be recovered from the $7.5 billion-plus Kemper County energy facility by January.

On Oct. 27, Mississippi Power submitted a motion to strike parts of written testimonies filed by David Dismukes, a Louisiana State University economist; Craig Roach, an independent evaluator hired by the state; and Thomas Blanton, a Hattiesburg oil businessman who was the plaintiff in a state Supreme Court case that ordered Mississippi Power in 2015 to send refunds to its 186,000 customers.

The testimonies are part of a hearing process the commission scheduled from October through December asking involved parties, including Mississippi Power Co. and the Public Utilities Staff, to submit testimonies and evidence for their cases for or against the Kemper plant.

Mississippi Power asked the commission on Oct. 27 to expedite their decision. The Public Utilities Staff initially denied Mississippi Power’s request, saying the broad scope of testimonies and other evidence is “necessary and appropriate.”

Mississippi Power said in a filing Monday they do not agree with the staff’s decision, and again asked the commission to reconsider.

“There’s been a great deal of emotions, responses and all these things, and we would like to be heard before the ruling takes place,” Mississippi Power’s attorney Ben Stone said at the meeting Tuesday. “I just think because of the importance of this matter (and) what we’re doing here today—in which the ruling would be whichever way it is—I just think that it would be good for you to hear at least the movements to make the case that we’re bringing forward.”