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Occupy Movement on Gulf Coast Takes Aim at Mississippi Power’s Coal to Gas Plant

By Rhonda Miller | Published 08 Dec 2011 12:17am | comments
Occupy Biloxi and the Mississippi Sierra Club held a demonstration in front of Mississippi Power's Gulfport offices.

The Occupy movement on the Gulf Coast is aiming its criticism at Mississippi Power’s coal plant under construction in Kemper County. MPB’s Rhonda Miller has more on the continuing controversy over converting coal to gas.

On the sidewalk in front of Mississippi Power’s Gulfport offices Wednesday,  a row of a dozen demonstrators from Occupy Biloxi and the Sierra Club held up signs with messages like, “Kemper County plant – Dirty, Expensive, Unnecessary.”

Will Watson is with Occupy Biloxi.

"This is a plant that has something for everybody to dislike," said Watson. "It’s going to raise rates on residential ratepayers in the southern part of the state. It’s really going to be dirty. It’s going to feature a very large lignite strip mine in the headwaters of the Pascagoula River, which is really the last unregulated free-flowing river system in the United States.

Mississippi Power spokesman Jeff Shepard said the facility is a zero-discharge plant and water will not seep into the ground. He said the plant meets all environmental standards.

"We’ve got science on our side," Shepard said. "We’ve partnered with our parent company,  A Southern Company, and the Department of Energy and researched this for more than 15 years, so experimental doesn’t seem to fit there."

“It’s clean coal - in theory.”  That’s Tom Baldwin of Biloxi. He has a PhD in physics and had a sign with two words, Coal Kills, and a drawing of a fish skeleton.

“The problem is you have to have a well-developed gasification program in order to make this concept even work," Baldwin said. "And that technology has not been really worked out.”

Mississippi Power said the plant will put a lot of people to work – 2,200 during the peak of construction.

The estimated $2.4 billion cost of construction to be paid by customers is a hot button issue.  Mississippi Power said paying up front will save customers money in the long-run.  

The Mississippi Sierra Club has filed a lawsuit challenging the state Public Service Commission’s decision to permit the building of the plant.  That case will be heard by the Mississippi Supreme Court on December 14.

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Occupy Biloxi and the Mississippi Sierra Club held a demonstration in front of Mississippi Power's Gulfport offices.


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