Leonard Bentz says The whole (Mississippi Power Coal Plant) story is not getting told
December 28, 2011 Leave a comment
Commentary: Big questions for Kemper County coal plant come down to who knew what and when
In May of 2010 we wrote, “For better or worse, the economic future for the next 40 years in southeastern Mississippi will be greatly impacted by the decision of Public Service Commissioner Leonard Bentz. ”
Justices with the Mississippi Supreme Court may be asking now how he came to his decision when he changed his vote from no to yes in a rehearing to approve the $2.8-billion Mississippi Power Company Kemper County coal plant.
Bentz and Lynn Posey have been for the project all along while Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley has steadfastly been against Kemper, calling it, among other things, “Corporate Socialism. ”
However, Bentz has had questions before, particularly concerning rate impacts, which Mississippi Power has never fully disclosed.
“The whole story is not getting told,” Bentz told the Mississippi Business Journal prior to the second vote of the PSC. “It is frustrating. I want to build this plant, but I want everybody to know exactly what is going to happen when we build this plant. I have to look Gulf Coast residents in the eye and tell them I did everything I could to get the information on the table. ”
Yet, the entire story has not been told, and Bentz voted for the plant after publicly questioning its validity a year and half ago.
This case is before the Supreme Court because of the Sierra Club, which is trying to stop the construction of the plant already underway near Liberty. Sierra argues that the PSC broke the law by failing to lay out a clear reason for easing financial terms in its second vote.
“I did not see and still do not find anywhere where the commission explained to the court why this was now not too risky,” said Associate Justice Randy “Bubba” Pierce. “I want to know what happened between April 29 and May 26. What additional facts were submitted to the record?”
That’s a great question for Bentz, who is on the record saying, “The whole story is not getting told. ”
There are two more questions that should be asked.
Is the plant needed?
Will it work?
First, the plant is not needed, because Mississippi Power can supply energy to South Mississippi with natural gas, which the MBJ has reported will be less expensive over a 30 year period than the energy supplied at Kemper.
Second, in an editorial board meeting with Mississippi Power executives and its construction experts, they were not completely secure in the ability of the Kemper technology to work.
We asked if they could guarantee the technology would work when they flipped the switch for the first time at Kemper.
The answer, after a long pause, was no.
With that information, how could the PSC vote for, what amounts to, a $2.88 billion tax on the people of South Mississippi for energy that can gotten elsewhere — and for less money?
We suspect Mississippi’s Supreme Court will ask those question when all is said and done, and maybe, just maybe Bentz or someone will tell the rest of the story.