Kemper will still run as a natural gas plant, which is fine. The Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) needs to be vigilant in making sure none of the $6.8 billion lignite gasification costs get included in the rate base. Mississippi Power ratepayers should not pay a penny for that failed project. Fortunately, the media publicity surrounding the Kemper boondoggle has changed the make-up of the PSC, which seems steadfast in its commitment to protect ratepayers from the Kemper disaster. The Northside Sun, which won national awards for its Kemper coverage, deserves some credit for this. Think about that when you choose to renew your subscription. It is conceivable that without such media scrutiny, a politically compromised PSC could have forced ratepayers to eat billions in Kemper costs, saddling one-third of our state with exorbitant energy costs for a generation. This would have hurt the growth of the entire state, forcing all Mississippians to shoulder greater tax burdens.
Credit also should go to PSC commissioner Brandon Presley, who opposed the project from day one. Unfortunately, Presley, a Democrat, was out-voted by two Republican commissioners who, along with the rest of our state’s Republican leadership, led by former Gov. Haley Barbour, supported Kemper slavishly. They were remunerated well for this devotion. Anti-cronyism think tank Bigger Pie, led by Northsiders Kelley Williams and Ashby Foote, deserve credit, as does Hattiesburg’s oil maverick Tom Blanton, who personally bankrolled the successful lawsuits against Kemper. There were others working behind the scenes who also contributed to the opposition.