Leaders of three of Mississippi’s top business organizations, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Business Council, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association and the Mississippi Economic Council, 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.
According to the groups, the court’s previous ruling could harm the Mississippi economy and they have all filed amicus briefs with the court requesting the rehearing. 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,” he said. “We believe the PSC acted correctly in establishing a structured “escrow” approach to funding this project.”
The state Legislature created a more affordable approach for funding construction of new and technologically-advanced utility plants such as Kemper “so that Mississippi could continue to move forward,” said Blake 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,” he said. “The PSC responded, developing a cost-effective implementation strategy that has kept monthly power bills significantly lower than originally projected by Mississippi Power.”
All three organizations say they 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.
The Supreme Court’s actions “could erase these positives and these more affordable rates,” Wilson said.
“Mississippi could be forced to return to an outdated and much more costly system of funding utility plant construction that many other states have long left behind,” he said. “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.”
Jack Norris, president of the Gulf Coast Business Council, said he is concerned that the economy of South Mississippi will suffer if the lower cost achieved by the PSC’s original order is compromised.
“We are finally beginning to see our Gulf Coast economy turn around,” he said. “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.”
For additional information see GulfLive’s Business orgs ask state Supreme Court to reconsider ruling that could affect Kemper electric rates.