High voltage transmission project submitted for review

A plan to build a 400-mile electricity transmission line from the Texas-Louisiana state line to the Mississippi-Alabama state line was formally submitted to the Mississippi Public Service Commission this week for approval. Officials of Southern Cross Transmission Project, a unit of the wind power-driven San Francisco-based utility company Pattern Energy, said their proposed transmission line could power hundreds of thousands of homes. In the company’s filing submitted late Tuesday, Southern Cross asked the commission to approve a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which would give Southern Cross the green light to start building their line. Examining the project could take a few months, Public Service Commissioner Cecil Brown said. The commission will also host public hearings to let affected landowners and public officials voice their praise or concerns over the projects before it makes its decision.

Gulf Coast restoration projects get $50M

A $50 million plan to restore water quality and boost parts of the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s economy received a green light this week. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality announced that the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council—which is represented by Gulf Coast states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the secretaries from the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Commerce and Agriculture, among others—has approved its State Expenditure Plan. This plan includes projects geared toward improving water quality along the shoreline and Mississippi Sound, said Marc Wyatt, director of the Department’s Office of Restoration, on Wednesday. These projects include the Mississippi Gulf Coast Water Quality Improvement Program ($45 million); Pascagoula Oyster Reef Complex Relay and Enhancement ($3.5 million); and Compatibility, Coordination, and Restoration Planning ($1.3 million). Wyatt said the department submitted the plan for council approval late last year soon after gathering input from the public at the department’s first-ever Mississippi Restoration Summit in November.

Brandon Presley to join national natural gas task force

Public Service Commission Chairman Brandon Presley will help lead a national task force focused on expanding natural gas service to rural areas of the United States. The Natural Gas Access and Expansion Task Force, created by the National Association of Regulatory Utilities Commission, a nonprofit group of government agencies that regulate utilities across the country and U.S. territories, will study the demand for expanding natural gas service and infrastructure and come up with nontraditional ways of getting the energy source out to under-served areas in the country. The group will be led by both Presley and Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner John F.  Coleman, Jr. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner. Association president Robert F. Powelson appointed Presley to the task force. Presley has previously advocated for adding natural gas infrastructure in rural areas of Mississippi.

Kemper plant cost bumped up $70M, new start date set

The cost estimate for the beleaguered Kemper County energy facility has gone up by $70 million to $7.2 billion, according to operator Mississippi Power Co. in its February report to the Mississippi Public Service Commission. The added cost breaks down to about $45 million for extending the project’s schedule through April 30; $15 million is related to start-up fuel; and $10 million for outage work and operational maintenance and improvements, Mississippi Power announced Monday. Mississippi Power, a unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co., in March announced the plant had experienced tube leaks in one of the syngas, or synthesis gas, coolers for one of its two gasifiers—machines that convert lignite coal into gas—and temporarily shut down that gasifier to address the problem. In a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week, the utility says this new schedule through the end of April reflects the time it would take to restart the plant’s gasifier A and establish its integrated operation with gasifier B, which has remained in operation since the first one was taken offline.