Trump, Kemper, and Mississippi Floods

Mississippi Power self destructs. But Kemper has changed the Overton Window for Mississippi Power – and probably other companies too by association. The soon to be $7 billion plant is an experiment too far. It was a tough sale from the start. It took some really clever spin and sleight of hand to make what was supposed to be a $2 billion lignite experiment seem better for customers than a $500 million off-the-shelf natural gas plant. It was supposed to be cheaper in the 40 year long run if natural gas supplies dried up and prices went to the sky. It’s “fuel diversification” was supposed to reduce natural gas cost and supply risk although it can’t run without natural gas. It was supposed to boost Mississippi’s enhanced oil recovery by supplying byproduct carbon dioxide – although there’s plenty of naturally occurring carbon dioxide available from the Jackson Dome.

And, oh yes, it was supposed to run too – two years ago. But the endless construction delays, cost overruns, and misrepresentations that keep surfacing have taken a toll. So have the company’s efforts to avoid disclosure (with it seems an assist from the PSC). The company says not to worry, customers won’t pay a dime more for it than the $2.8 or $3.2 or $4.1 billion “cap.” That’s the cap that keeps growing that resulted from a secret meeting. The Mississippi Supreme Court said the meeting was illegal. Customers wonder why they should pay a dime more than the $500 million cost of a natural gas plant. The PSC said they should pay $800 million for Kemper’s turbines running on natural gas and increased rates accordingly. Oh, by the way, Mississippi Power’s rates were already the highest in the state.

Respected Corps. And then there’s the Overton Window for the storied US Army Corps of Engineers and its projects on the Mississippi River. It’s now framed with respect and appreciation. Congress put the Corps in charge of the river after the great flood of 1927 with the charge: don’t let it happen again. It hasn’t. Some close calls in 1973, and 2011, and 2016. But no catastrophes. And some tradeoffs in 2011 when the levee at Birds Point, MO, was blown to keep Cairo, IL, from flooding and when the Morganza spillway was opened to protect Baton Rouge.

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