Lignite Plant Latest

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Mississippi Power officials are speaking out on the Kemper County lignite coal plant project.

In recent weeks the project has come under scrutiny from the Mississippi Sierra Club. The group continues efforts to halt construction, but work has not stopped at the project site.

Mississippi Power CEO Ed Day says that construction at the plant site is still on track for completion in May 2014.

"We never stopped construction," says Day, "and [we think] the record will show this was the most cost effective resource over the 40 year period."

The latest legal challenge from the Sierra Club asks for construction to be halted while an appeal is filed. The group says that the Mississippi Public Service Commission did not provide enough details about their decision to allow construction in the first place, but Day says that complaint has already been addressed.

"We're confident in the construction, the technology, and how the commission took the time in 2009, 2010, and recently to go through the testimony," says Day.

"We're confident the court system will uphold the latest order."

Day also addressed concerns that with currently low natural gas prices, building a coal plant is not worth the money.

"It's all about fuel diversity, back in 2001 we built a gas facility north of Pascagoula, gas prices were about the same as they are today and we used that plant to keep our fuel prices low," says Day.

Day says that the Kemper plant will add to the companies options should prices fluctuate and coal energy become cheaper than gas.

"Over the next 40 years, depending on which fuel price is best for our customers we'll be able to portfolio those together, and offer a very stable energy rate over the foreseeable future for our customers."

Day recognizes that rates are expected to go up over the next decade, estimating that customers could see an increase of 30 to 33 percent in their power bill.

"We think that possibly that might be less because we have the opportunity to sell byproducts that will be produced at the site," says Day.

Day also says that Sierra Club claims that the plant will lead to pollution is inaccurate, saying the lignite plant is a zero discharge water facility.