Topazi Says Mississippi Power Faces Time Deadline

By: Lindsey Brown Email
By: Lindsey Brown Email

The Mississippi Public Service Commission has set another hearing date for Mississippi Power Company to make a case for a lignite coal plant in Kemper County.

The PSC will meet at 10 a.m. Friday to discuss whether or not to reconsider conditions it gave the company to follow, if it proceeds with the project.

Mississippi Power's president was in east Mississippi Wednesday, to address the Meridian Rotary Club.

Weeks ago, when Topazi was scheduled to speak to the club, he said he though it would be focused on the construction process. Instead he's still fighting to push the project forward.

"We are at the wall in terms of beginning construction. We had a number of things in place, equipment options, that need to be completed. So if I don't get an order by the end of May that allows me to begin, I suspect it will be dead," said Topazi.

Mississippi Power has developed an amended proposal that company officials believe addressed the main concern commissioners had with the project.

However, at this point company officials can only hope these changes are considered a significant enough compromise by the commission.

"We don't have an option of doing nothing," said Topazi.

Because of an increased demand level, Topazi says the company will have to build a natural gas plant if the commission doesn't approve the newest request. That option, he says, will cost customers 30 percent more over the life of the plant.

As for concerns that there is no protection for the company's rate payers, Topazi says that's up to the commissioners.

"The public service commission has authority to evaluate everything we do in a construction project," he said. "They must review what we have done and decide it is prudent. There are no blank checks in this. We do have to work off of estimates because we have not yet let contracts. So we don't know to the dollar what it will cost, but beyond that, they have the authority to decide if they want to allow it."

Topazi also says the project has been granted federal tax credits that will be lost if the project doesn't start in June.


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