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Mississippi Power, Sierra settle coal litigation

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 4, 2014 at 12:55 pm •  Published: August 4, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Power will convert from coal to natural gas or retire several units at plants in south Mississippi and Greene County, Alabama, as part of an agreement to end litigation over construction of a coal-fired power plant in Kemper County.

The company and the Sierra Club announced Monday that they are ending the litigation.

"The Sierra Club had the opportunity here to do something the Sierra Club is best in," said Robert Wiygul of Ocean Springs, the attorney for the environmental group.

The agreement is "going to help clean up the air in Mississippi, get some help to the people most affected by rate increases with Kemper and move Mississippi toward a future where homeowners and businesses owners can install clean air equipment," Wiygul said.

Wiygul said the Sierra Club will drop regulatory challenges before the Public Service Commission and legal appeals pending in local and state courts. It also is dropping its appeal pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court on whether it is constitutional for Mississippi Power to recover costs before the Kemper plant is running.

The Kemper County power plant will use a soft form of coal called lignite mined adjacent to the plant, converted into a gas and burned for energy, stripping out carbon dioxide and other hazardous chemicals. The plant has been burdened by cost overruns.

Ed Holland, Mississippi Power president and CEO, said the changes are needed to comply with new federal environmental standards. By next spring, Mississippi Power will stop using coal at Plant Watson in Gulfport, he said.

Right now, Plant Watson has three units that use natural gas. Two coal-fired units still be used will be converted to natural gas by April 15, 2015.

At Plant Sweatt in Meridian, the company commits to retire two of the existing natural gas units, repower with more advanced technology or convert to an alternative non fossil-fuel source, no later than Dec. 31, 2018.

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