Here's some background: Mississippi has fairly large quantities of lignite coal. As far as coal goes, lignite ain't good for much. But a new, untested technology hopes to change that. The idea is that rather than burning the lignite, it is gasified instead to produce energy to harness and send down transmission lines to ratepayers. Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of the Southern Company, started throwing its political weight around to get the Public Service Commission to allow them to raise rates to fund the construction of a lignite plant in Kemper County. And it worked, and the rates for Mississippi Power customers went up.
But on the road to cheap energy paradise, things went very predictably haywire.
To begin with, the process behind the gasification of the lignite has never been functional at the level Mississippi Power wanted everyone to believe. When Presley pointed this fact out, he was drowned out by the lobbying money being tossed around by Mississippi Power and the Southern Company. Then came the cost overruns, which have hit staggeringly high numbers, and will be borne by none other than Mississippi Power customers. Presley warned about that, too, but again, no one would listen.
To date, the cost overruns on the incomplete plant are about one billion dollars. And the poor folks of southeast Mississippi are the ones who are going to have to foot the bill for it, since no one would listen to Commissioner Presley. Well, now folks in the Republican Party may finally be seeing the light. Wyatt Emmerich, noted Republican newspaper man, penned an editorial explaining the fiasco Friday. It's a very well-written article and provides an indispensable synopsis of the history behind the Kemper County plant. He also has a wealth of quotes from Presley:
Recently, I talked to Presley. He is in disbelief about this whole project. “Its strange to me that after the Commission recently rectified the plant to go forward, Mississippi Power just happened to then find $366 million in cost overruns. Now, the company has found another $56 million in overruns in the last month. So, it now has $422 million in overruns and is only around 30 percent complete,” he said. “To me the analogies here, minus just the pure corruption, with the beef plant are so clear it’s just pitiful. ... The federal stimulus package cost $810,000 per job. The Kemper project cost the customers of Mississippi Power $144 million per job. ... “I don’t know what the end price tag will be. I don’t know if it will produce power in 2014. ... The problem with this thing is that it should never have been let out of the gate in the first place. It’s at least going to end up a 45 percent rate hike.”Folks, there's a mess brewing in southeast Mississippi, and it was brought to you by nothing but flat-out bought and paid for willful ignorance. Take a minute to read Emmerich's article and get ready for what is likely to be a story you'll be hearing about for a decade.