JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Gov. Phil Bryant signed two bills into law Tuesday, codifying a settlement between the Public Service Commission and Mississippi Power Co. over the company's Kemper County power plant.
Mississippi Power, a unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co., filed for a 7-year-rate plan as contemplated under one of the laws less than two hours after Bryant approved the measures. The other law that Bryant approved allows Mississippi Power to sell up to $1 billion in bonds to pay Kemper costs over $2.4 billion.
Tuesday was the last day for Bryant to act before the bills became law without his signature. He repeated his support for the plant in an interview with The Associated Press. Bryant has previously said the plant, with its plan to gasify soft coal mined nearby, is an important element of an energy policy for the state
"I think we've gotten a strong show of support from the Legislature, but the most important point to me is carrying through with our responsibility to the people who work there," Bryant said. "Hopefully, this will keep the cost of energy low in the future."
The company says the measures will cut the projected rate increase for the plant from 33 percent to 21 percent or less.
A residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per month would see their bill rise $25 to $27 a month starting in April, the company says. But Mississippi Power homes used an average of 1,186 kwh each month in 2011 according to federal statistics. Higher usage means the monthly increase could run $29 to $32 a month for households, if commissioners approve the increase. They could act as early as March 5 to approve the surcharge to start paying interest on debt that Mississippi Power has already accumulated.
"We applaud Governor Bryant for his leadership and for recognizing the importance of this legislation to our customers," Mississippi Power President Ed Day said in a statement. "The bills will save Mississippi Power customers more than $1 billion over the life of the facility."
But opponents of the plant say it will lead to crushing rate increases for Mississippi Power's 186,000 customers scattered from Meridian to the Gulf Coast.
"I think the most important thing is to think about the harm to the local economy," said Richard Sun, a Jackson investor and business advisor who's spoken out against the plant. "It's like money that's going overseas. It might as well be going to Saudi Arabia."