Politics & Government

High court lets Posey stay on PSC's Kemper case

The state Supreme Court won't order Public Service Commissioner Lynn Posey to recuse himself from rate decisions on Mississippi Power Co.'s Kemper power plant.

PSC candidate Thomas Blanton, who successfully sued to halt an 18 percent rate increase designed to pay part of the cost of the more than $6 billion plant, said Posey should bow out because he accepted campaign contributions from companies Mississippi Power contracted to work on the plant.

A three-justice panel of Presiding Justice Michael K. Randolph, Randy Pierce and David A. Chandler ruled the initial rate increase was improper and ordered the company to return about $377 million to 186,000 customers. The deadline for customers to decide how they'd receive that refund was Friday.

Mississippi Power then went back to the PSC and was granted an emergency 18 percent increase to pay for the gas-fired portion of the plant that already is producing electricity. The plant, which is over budget and behind schedule, also is supposed to convert lignite into synthetic gas that will be used to produce electricity. That part of the plant isn't expected to make electricity until the middle of next year.

Blanton, a Democrat, faces Republican Sam Britton and Reform Party candidate Lonny Kenneth Spence in Tuesday's election for the Southern District seat on the PSC. The winner will succeed Southern District Commissioner Steve Renfroe, who chose not to run.

Posey, who represents the Central District, also isn't seeking re-election.

The court also refused to block Mississippi Power from getting the emergency rate increase before the PSC found the spending on Kemper was prudent. The same three-justice panel found blocking the rate increase would be premature because the PSC has a hearing set for Nov. 10 on the increase and the prudency of a portion of the plant.