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Public Service Commissioner Says Organization Needs to Change How It Regulates

By Paul Boger | Published 03 Dec 2013 08:45am | comments

A top official at the Mississippi Public Service Commission says the organization needs to do more to ensure utility companies around the state are working in the best interest of Mississippians. MPB's Paul Boger reports.

Steven Renfroe is the state's newest Public Service Commissioner. Speaking at a luncheon in Jackson yesterday, Renfroe says he believes the commission needs to make sure public utility companies are doing what's best for Mississippians.

 "As a general principle, people make better decisions when they have skin in the game." said Renfroe. "What I'm asking the commission to do is to take a look at how they regulate. My theory is when a company spends a dollar on expense do they see that as coming out of their pocket or out of the customers pocket."

However, controversy over the Kemper County Coal Plant now in construction in East Miss., and Mississippi Power's recent rate hikes has some believing that the commission is not doing enough on behalf of residents.

Louie Miller is with the Mississippi Sierra Club. While he liked Renfroe's idea, Miller believes the commission has no desire to actually do anything about the rate hikes.

"I have to say, I liked the comment that he is here to represent the rate payers, and I like the idea that we are going to require Mississippi Power to put some skin in the game." said Miller. "At this point I think it's clear that Mississippi Power needs to be responsible for its bad business decisions, and he certainly wasn't interested in going there."

While Renfroe admits Mississippi Power's rate increases were large, he believes those increases are a part of what it will take to bring Mississippi into the future.

"Investing in the future requires great thought, and it requires some cost increase." said Renfroe. If all we do is look at driving the costs down then what will happen over the long term is that the infrastructure will degrade and we won’t have reliable service. 

Over the past year, Mississippi Power has increased rates by 15%; and is expected raise rates another 3% in 2014.

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