On Monday, I joined over fifty concerned citizens who had gathered in the Harrison County Courthouse to protest the proposal to build a dirty, unnecessary, and expensive coal plant and lignite mine in Kemper County, Mississippi, and listen in on oral arguments for the Sierra Club’s legal challenge in front of the Chancery Court. You can check out some of the pictures from the pre-hearing rally in the slideshow below.
After the rally, folks filed into Judge Jim Persons’ courtroom for the hearing – packing it to capacity. At issue was whether or not the Mississippi Public Service Commission (MPSC) acted correctly when it reversed an initial decision to restrict funding for the Kemper proposal, and instead approved a plan that forces the ratepayers of southeast Mississippi to pay for this $2.8 billion dollar boondoggle. According to an investigation by the Mississippi Business Journal, this controversial decision will raise residential rates by up to forty-eight percent.
Robert Wiygul, Sierra Club’s attorney and a former GRN board member, spoke first and presented an eloquent and thorough argument for why this dirty, expensive, and unnecessary coal plant and mine is not in the public’s best interest. Mississippi Power attorney Ben Stone based much of his argument around the assertion that the large upfront costs to ratepayers’ pocketbooks would be justified in the long-run because this plant will use relatively cheap and abundant lignite coal. This claim completely ignores the fact that there may be no long-run for the Kemper experiment.
The experimental carbon capture method proposed for this project has never succeeded on a commercial scale and one of the main environmental studies on Kemper even admits that the technology might completely fail to capture carbon dioxide. For this reason, state and federal regulators have only approved the mining operation for a four and half year trial run. If the Kemper experiment fails, the plant will most likely be converted to natural gas and ratepayers will have shouldered the costs of this unnecessary, expensive and dirty mine.
After four hours, the hearing concluded with Judge Persons informing the parties involved that he would issue a ruling within two weeks.