Mississippi Public Service Commission served the people well

Mississippi Public Service Commissioners, from left, Sam Britton, Brandon Presley and Cecil Brown
Mississippi Public Service Commissioners, from left, Sam Britton, Brandon Presley and Cecil Brown

The Mississippi Public Service Commission served the customers of Mississippi Power well.

In the first year of service for two members, the commission was handed the dicey task of reaching an equitable solution for the Kemper County power plant. The plant was over budget by billions and behind schedule by years.

It was a tight spot.

But commissioners Sam Britton, Brandon Presley and Cecil Brown proved to be up to the task. Last week, the PSC nudged Mississippi Power and other parties with an interest in the Kemper plant toward a settlement. They made it clear they thought it best the plant be operated with natural gas, not the syngas the plant would make from lignite coal.

They also said the settlement should include no further rate increase to pay for the plant.

That was a bold move.

This week, Mississippi Power agreed it would run the plant on natural gas, for now.

Mississippi Power had some powerful supporters, former Gov. Haley Barbour among them.

But it has many critics as well.

A lawsuit caused the company to pay millions back to its customers. Other suits have yet to be resolved.

Now, it is up to the Public Service Commission to finalize this agreement. It said it plans to do just that at its meeting Thursday in Jackson.

The plant opened with great promise. Mississippi Power said it would diversify its portfolio and possibly revolutionize the energy industry.

And its Transport Integrated Gasification technology indeed may one day bring a return on the Mississippi Power investment.

But for South Mississippi, the timing wasn’t right. Gas prices fell sharply because of the success of fracking and they remained low.

The plant’s critics never were able to convince Mississippi Power to switch the plant to gas only. But the PSC saw that switching to gas was the best route and the commission had the power and political will to persuade Mississippi Power to go along.

Mississippi is lucky to have such knowledgeable men of vision on its PSC. It is an often overlooked but important job. They have performed it admirably.

And finally, we hope that Mississippi Power emerges from this chapter in its history a stronger, smarter company.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.