Newell said it hasn't been decided whether current workers at Kemper will be forced to join unions. He said he didn't think any nonunion workers on the site would be fired in favor of unionized workers.
It's common on large projects for unions to try to pressure companies to hire their members, but they often don't succeed. Though much of Mississippi's business community is hostile toward unions, Southern's workers have been unionized for decades, with linemen across the four-state territory represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Louie Miller, the state director for the Sierra Club, called the Kemper plant "a job killer, not a job promoter."
The group argues that rate increases could be much higher than the one-third that Mississippi Power commonly cites, especially because the plant's cost has risen above the original $2.4 billion.
The dispute over Kemper is the latest in a series of clashes between Southern and the Sierra Club. Monday, the club criticized former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour for not disclosing that he was lobbying for Southern when he sent letters to newspaper editors attacking the club.
Earlier, an Alabama group sent out a news release attacking Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, a Democrat who has opposed Kemper, for taking a $5,000 campaign contribution from the Sierra Club in 2011. The group said Presley's opposition had created needless delays and called on him to recuse himself from future votes.
"Given an opportunity to support this exciting project, Commissioner Brandon Presley chose instead to advance the radical environmental agenda of a group with no vision for our energy future other than to make electricity beyond affordable," the Montgomery-based Project for Affordable Clean Energy wrote Nov. 19.
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