Mississippi Power Co. and its corporate parent Southern Company’s Kemper power plant may be the biggest debacle in the history of Mississippi not related to the Civil War or its long aftermath. It makes the famed beef plant look like tiddlywinks.
The Company spent $6.2 billion (and counting) to build a plant that would (maybe) run on gasified ‘clean coal.’ That compares to the $250 million that it would have cost for a used natural gas plant that would be cheaper to operate. Miss. Power/ Southern Co. promised that the plant would open by May 2014 and would cost less than $2.88 billion.
Running on clean coal is an unproven theory. A $6 billion experiment funded by Mississippians. Right now, natural gas is so cheap that it would be cheaper to run the plant on gas than clean coal–assuming the clean coal theory works. No one really expects natural gas prices to rise substantially because oil fracking produces so much natural gas. And fracking is on the rise.
The plant is still not operational three years after the promised open date. The Company has clearly been deceptive about when the plant will open and, probably, whether it’s going to even work. At this point, you can’t believe anything the Company says about it. The Company has repeatedly lied and/or misled the public and Miss. Public Service Commission about the plant. This would not matter to most people except for the fact that the Company wants South Mississippians to foot the bill for the plant by paying unfairly high electricity rates. It’s ridiculous that this is even possible.
Needless to say, there is going to be a lot of litigation. Plaintiffs filed this securities class action complaint in Atlanta in January. The Company hired mega-firms Latham Watkins and Jones Day to defend it. They haven’t filed an answer yet. Those firms will bill millions on the litigation. Eight figures at least. Maybe more. Those costs will presumably also be passed on to consumers.
Another lawsuit was filed in Delaware seeking records related to the plant. That makes five lawsuits to date according to Steve Wilson with Mississippi Watchdog.
At this point, Miss. Power and the Southern Company have zero credibility. Regardless of whether they had good intentions, they look like incompetent sleazeballs. They need to leave. Someone needs to take over the project who does not already have mud on their face.
Miss. Power needs to be sold to another company such as Entergy or NextEra Energy who can come in and make the best of a bad situation. Maybe Miss. Power needs to declare bankruptcy? Hopefully, something can be done to help keep South Mississippians from holding the bag of the Kemper Plant fiasco. The one certainty is Miss. Power needs to be gone.
Mississippi can’t get a do over. But it needs to at least get the snakes out of the woodpile.