Presley, Adams in heated campaign for northern district PSC post
November 1, 2011 2 Comments
Presley Has Correct Information Adams Spouts Inaccurate Information to trick voters
EMILY LE COZ Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
Tupelo, Miss. — Candidates for Northern District Public Service commissioner strike a stark contrast to each other, with the incumbent vowing to protect consumers and his challenger rallying for economic development.
In the final days leading up to the Nov. 8 general election, both want voters to know the difference.
“I think it’s our job to be 100 percent the guardian for consumers,” said incumbent Democrat Brandon Presley, who seeks a second term. “My record is unparalleled in the history of the Public Service Commission of voting against rate hikes. I’ve stood up to special interests more than anybody ever. That’s the truth.”
Presley said he opposed the biggest rate increase in state history by rejecting Mississippi Power Company’s Kemper County Coal Plant, which would raise its south Mississippi customers’ utility rates a reported 45 percent to cover the cost of the $2.8 billion project.
Republican challenger Boyce Adams said he would have supported the plant had he been in Presley’s seat because of its economic impact and clean coal technologies.
“Energy is the future in Mississippi, and I think the Energy economy will lead Mississippi out of this recession,” Adams said. “But we have to make sure we have our doors open for Business and cut unnecessary regulation.”
He then chided Presley for rejecting the coal plant against the desires of Mississippi‘s top political leaders, and he disputed the company would raise utility fees.
“The 45 percent rate hike is not factual, it’s a scare tactic promoted by the Sierra Club,” Adams said. “There is no rate hike associated with the project.”
THAT IS A LIE Mr. Adams, prove it! Not even Leonard Bentz, and Mississippi Power is singing that fable.
But in a document filed by Mississippi Power Company with the Public Service Commission in 2009, the company itself estimated its average residential customer would pay an additional $60 per month from 2014 through 2020 to fund the plant.
MPC said it represents about a 30 percent increase. But the MississippiBusiness Journal, which has done a series of stories on the issue, said it’s actually a 45 percent increase based on average residential consumption of 1,200 kilowatt hours per month.
Adams also accused Presley of illegally accepting a campaign contribution four years ago from Mitchell Scruggs and then hiding that fact. According to state election rules, candidates for the Public Service Commission can’t accept campaign donations from people or entities regulated by the PSC.
Until three weeks ago, Scruggs had served as president of the North Lee County Water Association, which has come under fire for a series of allegations involving mismanagement and falsifying water samples.
“The minimum penalty for willfully accepting campaign money from anybody you’d regulate is removal from office,” Adams said. “It’s not legal or ethical.”
Campaign finance records show Presley accepted $1,000 from Mitchell Scruggs Farm on April 27, 2007. The money was returned to Scruggs on Jan. 31, 2008.
“Obviously, I didn’t know he sat on the water board at the time I accepted the donation,” Presley said. “I don’t know every person who sits on every board in the district. But as soon as I realized it, I returned the money. Period.”
Adams said he’s in the same position as Presley, yet he hasn’t accepted a single contribution from anyone associated with a utility.
He has, however, accepted donations from Washington lobbyists who work on behalf of Utilities. Matt Wise and Bret Boyles, both of whom lobby for AT&T, each gave Adams $250 this year.
“It’s different, they’re personal friends,” Adams said. “They are not registered lobbyists in Mississippi. There’s nothing legally that prohibits” contributions from lobbyists.
Adams went on to criticize Presley’s handling of the North Lee County Water Association debacle. He said had Presley heeded the early warning signs, he could have avoided the entire situation. Instead, Adams said, his opponent ignored customer complaints about poor water quality until the issue became public through the Daily Journal.
Presley said his investigators handled each of the 77 complaints filed by North Lee customers to the PSC since he took office. But none of them alleged falsified water samples or mismanagement from the supervisor and board of directors.
Presley also questioned how well his opponent would have handled North Lee in light of Adams’ Sept. 26 letter to all water association boards in the district.
“I want you to know that, if elected, I will not overstep my authority as commissioner, like some have done in the past,” Adams wrote. “I vow to work with each water association to assist in their needs – not dictate their performance.”
He also said the “the last thing we need right now is more regulation.”
Adams said he meant the letter as an invitation to collaborate, not as a carte blanche to operate outside the law. He also said that most water associations work well with their customers and the government and he doesn’t want to unnecessarily burden the good boards with rules written for the bad ones.
Presley said he supports more regulation for water associations and wants the entities subject to the state’s Open Records and Open Meetings law.