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Scrapbook: Club Goes to Bat for Ratepayers, Fights Coal 'Boondoggle' in Mississippi

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Sierra Club Scrapbook

February 15, 2011

Club Goes to Bat for Ratepayers, Fights Coal 'Boondoggle' in Mississippi

Kemper-press-conference

On February 14, the Sierra Club went back to court in its ongoing battle to stop Mississippi Power from proceeding with plans for a controversial new $2.4 billion coal-fired power plant in Kemper County.

"It was a big day for our campaign against the Kemper County Coal Plant and mine," says Club organizer Louis Miller, above at lectern, introducing Mississippi Sierra Club Vice Chair Rose Johnson.

"We organized a press conference before the hearing in which we had a robust and very diverse crowd of approximately 70 people including speakers from small businesses, community groups, Kemper citizens, a Gulfport city councilwoman, and the Gulf Restoration Network, which co-hosted the event."

Coastal-Women-for-Change

The event drew the Mississippi Business Journal, the Biloxi Sun-Herald, and we were the lead story on WLOX's news programs as well as their homepage.

Citizens-at-Kemper-hearing

Citizens wore lapel stickers stating "Dirty Expensive Unnecessary" and held flip-flops inscribed with the names of two PSC commissioners' who reversed their decision last year and allowed Kemper to move forward.

Miller-with-flip-flop

Last April the PSC conditionally approved the project, but implemented a cost cap that would have made it difficult for Mississippi Power to move forward with construction, citing concerns over financial risks. But shortly thereafter, bowing to pressure from the utility, the Commission raised the cost cap, boosting to $2 billion the power plant's potential cost to ratepayers.

The Sierra Club organized citizen protests and appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, which sent the case back to the Harrison County Chancery Court for further proceedings. February 14 was that day in court.

"We were able to pack the court room with 'our side' to the point that the judge closed the proceeding due to no available seats," says Miller.

Club attorney Robert Wiygul argued that PSC commissioners ignored their own policy, and reiterated that in addition to its harmful environmental and public health impacts, the project presents a huge financial risk to ratepayers, who should not be required to foot the massive bill to burn coal, an antiquated and dirty energy source.

"The Public Service Commission's flip-flop on this Kemper boondoggle forces all the costs and risks onto the backs of the ratepayers while Mississippi Power is guaranteed a 12 percent rate of return," Miller says. "Mississippi's families and small businesses shouldn't be forced to subsidize a Fortune 500 company like Mississippi Power."

All photos courtesy of Gulf Restoration Network.

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