PSC Bentz Ruins Mississippi now is Promoted out of Accountability

Bentz leaving PSC to head South Mississippi Planning and Development District

Leonard Bentz

Leonard Bentz

JACKSON  — Leonard Bentz is leaving the state Public Service Commission to become executive of the South Mississippi Planning and Development District.

The board of the 15-county planning district voted yesterday to hire the Republican Bentz, paying him $150,000 a year.

Bentz, who made $78,000 per year representing the PSC’s Southern District, was chosen from among five finalists. He will have to resign his elected post on the three-member utility commission to accept the job.

Bentz is a former Harrison County deputy sheriff, former PSC utility investigator and a former member of the Mississippi House of Representatives.

Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint a successor.

Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock said the governor hasn’t officially been notified of Bentz’s departure and declined to comment on how or when the governor might replace him.

It wasn’t immediately clear when Bentz would resign. He and his spokeswoman did not return phone calls and emails from The Associated Press. The move to appoint Bentz had faced scrutiny in part because his father, Leonard Bentz Sr., is secretary of the planning district’s board. As part of the agreement to hire Bentz, his father agreed to resign, the Clarion-Ledger reported.

During the search, the district’s board altered its qualifications so that it could hire someone without a college degree, which Bentz doesn’t have.

The appointment comes at a crucial time for the power plant that Mississippi Power Co. is building in Kemper County. The total cost of the plant, including an associated mine and pipeline, is currently projected at $4.7 billion. Atlanta-based parent Southern Co. has agreed to shoulder about $1 billion of that cost, and another $1 billion is supposed to be diverted into bonds that customers will repay, but isn’t supposed to include profit for Mississippi Power.

But the Public Service Commission must approve the prudency of Mississippi Power’s spending, and opponents are pushing commissioners to reject as much spending as possible, which could force additional losses onto Southern Co. shareholders.

Bryant has been a supporter of the Kemper plant, testifying in favor of it before the PSC when it was originally approved, lauding it as part of his energy strategy for the state, and signing two bills this year that ratified a rate settlement between Mississippi Power and the PSC.

Any appointee would serve until after the 2015 state elections. Winning re-election could be tricky, though. Many House members from areas served by Mississippi Power voted against the settlement legislation that Bryant signed, betraying concern about being seen to support the Kemper project.

Kemper opponents called on Bryant to appoint someone willing to vote against Kemper.

“We call on Gov. Bryant to appoint a smart, experienced, and courageous commissioner who will make protecting Mississippi ratepayers her absolute priority — even if it means standing up to Mississippi Power,” Mississippi Sierra Club director Louie Miller said in a statement.

The three-member regulatory commission faces some other big decisions in coming months. For example, commissioners are likely to vote in September on whether to allow Entergy Corp. to spin off its transmission system to ITC Holdings Corp.


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Mississippi Supreme Court Questions Kemper Coal Plant

Supremes Question Kemper

Residents near a planned 582-megawatt coal plant protested the project that threatens to raise their electric rates by 45 percent.

by R.L. Nave
Dec. 21, 2011

In all the pages of court records regarding a dispute between environmentalists and an electric utility company–pages that one Mississippi Supreme Court justice characterized as the most voluminous he has seen in his eight years on the court–one important piece of information eluded the justices.

What changed between April and May for the Mississippi Public Service Commission to reverse itself and allow Mississippi Power Co. jack up the cap on a 582-megawatt Kemper County coal plant by $480 million dollars?

“So far I don’t find anything in the commission’s order itself–and haven’t yet found in the record–what it is that would help me understand that the commission is justified in making this factual conclusion that the risks are now balanced,” presiding Justice Jess H. Dickinson said last week.

Brandon Presley, the PSC’s northern district commissioner, has an idea. Presley voted against fellow commissioners Lynn Posey and Leonard Bentz, of the central and southern district respectively, on the cap increase.

“The only thing I saw change was letters came in from Barack Obama’s energy secretary and Haley Barbour,” Presley said.

Last summer, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Gov. Barbour wrote letters asking Presley to reconsider his opposition to Mississippi Power raising the price tag of the plant, which is now under construction. Presley balked at the idea, calling the project a bad deal for consumers.

“If President Obama or Governor Barbour like this plant so much, let them come up with a way to pay for it,” he told the Jackson Free Press last week.

Presley, along with consumer and environmental advocacy groups, has fought to oppose the plant, albeit for slightly different reasons at times.

“I have no problem whatsoever with clean coal technology,” Presley said. “I have a problem with asking the people of Mississippi to be guinea pigs.”

The Sierra Club opposes the 582-megawatt plant because it is slated to use experimental internal gasification combined technology to burn low-grade lignite coal. As the basis for its lawsuit against Mississippi Power and the PSC, the suit before the Mississippi Supreme Court, the Sierra Club also argued that the commission failed in its obligation to publicly explain its rationale for the reversal.

On April 29, 2010, Commissioners Posey and Bentz issued a decision limiting the ratepayer cost of the plant to $2.4 billion. Mississippi Power stockholders of Company would have to pick up any costs above $2.4 billion, they said at the time.

The Atlanta-based utility complained that it should be able to pass any additional costs down to the ratepayers, and warned that it could not afford to build the plant if not allowed to pass on all the costs, including those above $2.4 billion.

Less than one month later, the commission revised its decision May 26, allowing the company to charge ratepayers up to $2.88 billion for the plant. Mississippi Power did not publicly release the amount of the rate increase customers would shoulder as a result.

After being pressed by justices at the hearing, Sierra Club attorney Robert Wiygul said he obtained confidential information showing that ratepayers’ energy bills could rise as much as 45 percent.

Since the hearing, the justices are reviewing the remainder of the court documents and could bring the parties back to clarify some points before the three-judge panel or the full nine-member court. From there, they can remand the issue back to the PSC for review or strike provisions of the deal.

PSC Commissioners Posey and Bentz did not return calls by press time.

“I’m not counting any chickens before they hatch,” said Louie Miller, state director of the Mississippi Sierra Club. “I’m going to remain cautiously optimistic.”

Mississippi Public Service Commission Schedule No. 55


Mississippi Public Service Commission Schedule No. 55
1 of 3 November 16, 2011 Original


Applicable as a rider to the following base rates of the Company: GS-LVS, GSEH-LVS, GS-LVT, GSEHLVT,
GS-HV, and GSEH-HV (each individually a Small Business Base Rate and collectively Small
Business Base Rates). All terms and conditions of the Small Business Base Rates under which the
customer takes service shall remain applicable, except that the incentive specified below shall apply in
accordance with the terms and conditions of this Rider. A customer can receive only one (1) incentive
per premises. Rider SBE shall not be combined with the following Rate Riders of the Company: CR, SA,
and SR.
Available in all areas served by the Company. This Rider is available to any premises served under the
Small Business Base Rates above that experiences a permanent growth in electrical demand of at least 5
kW (for rates GS-LVS and GSEH-LVS) or 10 kW (for rates GS-LVT, GSEH-LVT, GS-HV, and GSEH-HV)
that is placed into service prior to January 1, 2013. This Rider is not available in instances of customer
load growth that results from the relocation of existing load currently served by the Company at another
Subject to compliance with the terms and conditions hereof and the execution of an associated contract
for service under the Rider, the customer will be eligible to receive one of the following incentives in the
form of a monthly discount on such customer’s electric bill applicable to the first twenty-four (24) months
of service to the new load by Company:
1. Customer will receive a discount equal to fifteen percent (15%) of the Incremental Base
Revenues as defined in this Rider.
2. A discount of twenty percent (20%) of the Incremental Base Revenues as defined in this Rider is
provided for qualifying customers who experience a net increase in permanent full-time jobs of at
least three (3) above their highest level of employment during the most recent twelve (12) months
prior to requesting a discount provided under this Rider.
Only net increases in jobs will qualify. Transfers of jobs between commonly owned, controlled, or leased
facilities within the State of Mississippi will not be deemed to be a net increase in jobs. Any jobs added
prior to the effective date shall not be counted when determining whether a net increase in jobs has
The customer’s monthly Base Revenue as defined in this Rider will be reduced by the applicable
discount(s) calculated above; provided, however, that no monthly bill shall be reduced beyond the
minimum bill amount calculated under the applicable Small Business Base Rate.

Mississippi Public Service Commission Schedule No. 55
2 of 3 November 16, 2011 Original

Base Revenue – Revenue as calculated from monthly billing on the applicable rate excluding the fuel
adjustment clause, miscellaneous rate adjustments, and the tax clause.
Incremental Base Revenues – Monthly base revenues from the customer after incremental new load is
added that are in excess of the monthly base revenues before load was added. This is calculated as
(a) A Monthly Benchmark Usage profile is created which consists of the billing kW and kWh
from each of the twelve billing months immediately prior to customer requesting the
discounts provided under this Rider. These twelve months of usage will be the
benchmark for all bills calculated during the term of the Rider.
(b) The difference between the base bill as calculated on the present month’s power usage
and the base bill as calculated on the Monthly Benchmark Usage for the corresponding
month is determined (ex., January’s actual base bill minus base bill calculated for the
monthly benchmarked January). Both bills will be calculated using the applicable rate
schedule in effect at time of billing. The result is the Incremental Base Revenue for the
present month.
If the calculated incremental base revenue is less than or equal to zero, customer will receive no discount
and will be billed in accordance with terms of the applicable rate.
Full-time Job – A position filled by a new employee working 30 hours or more per week constitutes one
full-time job.
Service under the Rider requires a contract that is consistent with the provisions hereof, including a
minimum two (2) year term. This SBE rider will terminate at the earlier of: (i) expiration of two (2) years
following initial service under the Small Business Base Rate or (ii) termination by the Commission as
provided by law, and the customer will continue to be served under the applicable Small Business Base
Rate schedule without the monthly discount provided herein. Should the customer wish to terminate
service anytime during the initial two (2) years of service, customer shall be subject to the minimum bill
charges of the Small Business Base Rate schedule for the balance of the initial two (2) year term of
The contract for service under this rider must be executed by an authorized representative of customer’s
company. To be eligible for the twenty percent (20%) credit, the contract must be accompanied by a
written statement attesting to the number of new permanent full-time jobs and the date of addition. The
customer must also include a statement of the highest level of employment at the facility during the
previous twelve (12) months prior to initiation of service under the Rider. At the Company’s discretion
during the term of the Rider, Company will request and customer will provide evidence satisfactory to the
Company of the actual increase in employment. Customer will also inform Company of reduced
employment at any time during the rider term. Should the actual increase in employment drop below the
jobs required for rider eligibility at any time during the rider term, the additional five (5) percent rider credit
will be immediately terminated.

Mississippi Public Service Commission Schedule No. 55
3 of 3 November 16, 2011 Original

TERM (Cont’d)
If during the term this Rider is in effect another rate for which the customer qualifies should become
available that is more cost-effective for the customer and to which this Rider does not apply, the customer
may elect to change to the more cost-effective rate with no penalty under this Rider, except that the
incentive provided hereunder shall cease when the rate change is made effective.
Customers may apply for this rider only once during the period that it is available

More on Obama’s US Secretary of Energy who Targeted PSC’s for Kemper County

Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy

As United States Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu is charged with helping implement President Obama’s ambitious agenda to invest in clean energy, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, address the global climate crisis, and create millions of new jobs.

Dr. Chu is a distinguished scientist and co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics (1997). He has devoted his recent scientific career to the search for new solutions to our energy challenges and stopping global climate change – a mission he continues with even greater urgency as Secretary of Energy.

Prior to his appointment, Dr. Chu was the Director of the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, where he led the lab in pursuit of alternative and renewable energy technologies. He also taught at the University of California as a Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology. Previously, he held positions at Stanford University and AT&T Bell Laboratories.

Dr. Chu’s research in atomic physics, quantum electronics, polymer and biophysics includes tests of fundamental theories in physics, the development of methods to laser cool and trap atoms, atom interferometry, the development of the first atomic fountain, and the manipulation and study of polymers and biological systems at the single molecule level. While at Stanford, he helped start Bio-X, a multi-disciplinary initiative that brings together the physical and biological sciences with engineering and medicine.

The holder of 10 patents, Dr. Chu has published nearly 250 scientific and technical papers. He remains active with his research group and has recently published work on general relativity and single molecule biology and biophysics that includes sub-nanometer molecular imaging with optical microscopy, cadherin adhesion, neural vesicle fusion, and nerve growth factor transport. About 30 alumni of his research group have gone on to become professors in their own right and have been recognized by dozens of prizes and awards.

Dr. Chu is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Academia Sinica, the Korean Academy of Sciences and Technology and numerous other civic and professional organizations. He received an A.B. degree in mathematics, a B.S. degree in physics from the University of Rochester, and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley as well as honorary degrees from 15 universities.

Dr. Chu was born in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1948. He is married to Dr. Jean Chu, who holds a D.Phil. in Physics from Oxford and has served as chief of staff to two Stanford University presidents as well as Dean of Admissions. Secretary Chu has two grown sons, Geoffrey and Michael, by a previous marriage.

In announcing Dr. Chu’s selection, President Obama said, “The future of our economy and national security is inextricably linked to one challenge: energy. Steven has blazed new trails as a scientist, teacher, and administrator, and has recently led the Berkeley National Laboratory in pursuit of new alternative and renewable energies. He is uniquely suited to be our next Secretary of Energy as we make this pursuit a guiding purpose of the Department of Energy, as well as a national mission.” Dr. Chu was sworn into office as the 12th Secretary of Energy on January 21, 2009.

Pressure from Obama’s Energy Czar for MS PSC and So. Company to Compromise for Cap and Trade

U.S. Energy Secretary Wants Kemper Approval

by Amy McCullough

Published: May 7,2010

The Energy Daily reports today that U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu hopes the Mississippi Public Service Commission and Southern Company can strike a compromise on a proposed $2.4 billion clean coal plant to be built in Kemper County.

The Mississippi Commission voted April 29 to allow the plant to go forward if Mississippi Power Company (a division of Southern Company) agreed to cap costs at $2.4 billion. MPC had previously proposed a cost cap of $3.2 billion. The Commission also turned the company down on its request to put Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) in rate base – or charge customers for plant financing costs before and during plant construction.

“The (Southern) project is also a large-scale project but it’s now in jeopardy. I just hope that Southern Co. and the (Mississippi) commission come to a compromise agreement…” Chu said, according to The Energy Daily.

Chu spoke Thursday at the Obama administration’s Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) – a task force charged with overcoming barriers to CCS within 10 years, with a goal of bringing five to 10 commercial demonstration projects online by 2016.

MPC has said the Commission’s restrictions “seem to make it impossible” to move forward with the plant and that the denial of CWIP would not allow them to operate in a financially responsible manner.

The Kemper plant would be the first U.S. plant to demonstrate CCS on a commercial scale. Southern Company first pursued a similar project, the Orlando Gasification Project, in Florida. After the state cancelled the project, Southern then gained permission to transfer $270 million in U.S. Department of Energy funds to Mississippi to pursue a clean coal project with CCS here.

Kemper would gasify Mississippi lignite, a lower rank coal, and then burn the gas to produce electricity. The company also plans to sell the plant’s captured carbon for Enhance Oil Recovery projects. In EOR, gas can be injected into depleted oil fields at high pressure to increase the amount of petroleum that can be extracted.

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