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Kemper Plant Construction Continues as Mississippi Power Deals with Credit Downgrade

By Rhonda Miller | Published 17 Aug 2012 07:00pm | comments
Jeff Shepard, spokesman for Mississippi Power, at the Gulfport offices.

Construction continues on the $2.8 billion coal-fired plant in Kemper County,  despite challenges facing Mississippi Power. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports on the company’s recent credit downgrade.

In downgrading Mississippi Power’s credit rating, Moody’s Investors Service cited “significant challenges .… (with) the regulatory, legal, financing, construction and technological uncertainties associated with the Kemper plant.”

In addition to Moody’s rationale, posted online, Fitch Ratings announced a similar downgrade last month.

"Obviously, we’re disappointed in the downgrades.”

That’s Mississippi Power spokesman Jeff Shepard.

“We envisioned these happening, once the Public Service Commission denied our request, and that was for, to begin charging rates to help defer, or pay off, financing costs for construction up at Kemper."

Mississippi Power’s attempts to raise customer rates to help finance construction of the Kemper plant set off a chain of legal challenges led by the Sierra Club. 

As of now, Mississippi Power has an appeal pending with the state Supreme Court related to the rate increase. And the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse approval for the Kemper plant.

Mississippi Power said it recently restructured the work of three main contractors on the project.  Sierra Club President Louie Miller calls the changes part of a meltdown.

"This is just one more cascading effect of the poor management that’s been executed over there by Mississippi Power. If the public wasn’t on the hook for paying for this, the ratepayers weren’t on the hook for paying for this, they would have shut this thing down a long time ago. And that’s what needs to happen. The Public Service Commission needs to issue a cease and desist on that and do an investigation and get to the bottom of what the hell’s going on up there."

The Kemper County plant will utilize a new technology, using soft brown coal called lignite in a gasification process. The $2.8 billion plant is due to be finished in 2014.

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Jeff Shepard, spokesman for Mississippi Power, at the Gulfport offices.


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