BILL MINOR: Proposed lignite plant generates wide controversy

JACKSON – Few people probably even knew Mississippi had a strata of low-grade soft brown coal called lignite. Long ignored as a cheap fuel, lignite has taken center stage of a proposed $2.4 billion advanced type of electric generating plant that has triggered a hot environmental controversy.

Gulf-coast based Mississippi Power Company that serves 23 counties has asked the state Public Service Commission for a construction permit to locate the facility in Kemper County and strip-mine 45 square miles of land (MPC says only 38 sq. mi.) to mine the lignite. The “History of Mississippi” published by the state Department of Archives and History, says lignite is found in east-central counties in beds one to three feet thick at depths of 1,000 feet.

“It would be a massive hole in the ground,” charges Louie Miller, of the Sierra Club in Mississippi, whose organization is the leading opponent of the project. The Sierra Club, founded in 1892, is the nation’s oldest conservation organization.

Bill Minor