Leading Mississippi Organizations Ask State Supreme Court to Rehear Kemper Rate Case

March 30th, 2015

Leading Mississippi Organizations Ask State Supreme Court to Rehear Kemper Rate Case

Noting that the Court’s previous ruling could harm the Mississippi economy, leaders of three of Mississippi’s top business organizations are asking the state Supreme Court to rehear a recent case regarding electric rates designed to help pay for Mississippi Power’s Kemper County energy facility. The Mississippi Manufacturers Association, Mississippi Economic Council and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Business Council have a all filed amicus briefs with the Court requesting the rehearing.

“The Mississippi Legislature created a more affordable approach for funding construction of new and technologically-advanced utility plants, like Kemper, so that Mississippi could continue to move forward,” said Blake A. Wilson, president and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council. “The Legislature created the opportunity for keeping monthly bills lower by allowing projects to be funded over more years, as they are under construction. The Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) responded, developing a cost-effective implementation strategy that has kept monthly power bills significantly lower than originally projected by Mississippi Power.”

“The Court’s actions could erase these positives- and these more affordable rates. Mississippi could be forced to return to an outdated and much more costly system of funding utility plant construction that many other states have long left behind,” continued Wilson. “The end result could be significantly higher monthly bills for customers, a chilling effect on economic development and reduced economic impact benefits gained from the creation of thousands of construction jobs and billions of dollars in investment in the plant.”

The Court ruled on Feb. 12 that the Mississippi PSC erred in setting rates for the Kemper project. The PSC and Mississippi Power disagree with the ruling and have filed with the Court asking for a rehearing of the case. The amicus briefs support the process established by the PSC following the guidelines established by the Legislature.

“The recent ruling by the Court, if upheld, would overturn the Kemper rate plan and could have the effect of turning a carefully studied, structured and conservative plan with a 24-percent rate increase to one that now could reach 40 percent,” said Jay Moon, president and CEO of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association. “For the sake of Mississippi’s industry I hope the Court rehears the case, reverses its decision and allows the lower rate to stand. We believe the PSC acted correctly in establishing a structured “escrow” approach to funding this project.”

In addressing the Court’s decision and its potential impact on the Gulf Coast’s economy, Jack Norris, president of the Gulf Coast Business Council said, “We are finally beginning to see our Gulf Coast economy turn around. The rate mitigation settlement with the PSC and legislation passed by the legislature were structured to reduce the impact on ratepayers. Businesses in the region have planned, budgeted and based contract pricing on the certainty established. I am concerned that the economy of South Mississippi will suffer if the lower cost achieved by the PSC’s original order is compromised and hope that the Court will consider the potential adverse financial impact.”

All three organizations support the PSC and Legislature’s leadership to keep energy costs in the state at the lowest possible level. The parties filing the amicus briefs support the PSC’s action in 2013 to implement a rate mitigation settlement which follows the process outlined by the Legislature as the appropriate approach for now and the future.

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