December 18, 2011
On December 14, 2011 a small group of Occupy Biloxi members joined a Sierra Club effort to make a six hour round trip to Jackson to support their lawsuit hearing before the Supreme Court regarding the atrocity of the Kemper Coal Power Plant. The details are complex but the basic issues are not. Ratepayers in Southern Mississippi are faced with huge increases in electricity rates beginning in January 2012 with absolutely no benefits; they are being charged for this “investment” on behalf of MS Power profits. This has occurred with corporate abuse being exerted over political bodies in the State of Mississippi including the corruption of the Public Service Commission. In addition, it involves the use of unproven technology with extraordinary risk, considerable risk to the environment of citizens, and unproven need of increased new facilities. We are being duped by a combination of the influence of Mississippi Power and its parent, the Southern Compant, and forced to pay for this atrocity.
In this report we will give the results of our trip experience and the essence of the issue with reference to other sources. It has been totally inadequately reported either by the SunHerald newspaper in Gulfport and the televison media WLOX-TV in Biloxi even though they were notified. Occupy Biloxi has decided to produce its own media and this is just one attempt to announce that. We will tell the citizenry what they need to know about these issues.
Seventeen persons caught the chartered bus in Gulfport at 7:30am on December 14 for the three hour ride to the State Capitol in Jackson. In Jackson we were joined by about a half dozen Occupy Jackson members. Following a tour of the Capitol, and a brief visit to the permanent site of Occupy Jackson at Smith Park, the Sierra Club arranged for a box lunch followed by a press conference conducted by Sierra Club Director, Louie Miller. In the picture here, he is seen holding the “flip flops” which symbolize the change in votes by Public Service Commissioners Bentz and Posey to approve this industrial disaster.
There were two adequate press reports of the Supreme Court hearing, one by the Clarion Ledger/Associated Press in Jackson and a second by the Mississippi Business Journal. There were no television reporters at the Sierra Club press conference. In approximately a two hour hearing we witnessed superb questioning of the attorneys by the three justices who heard the case. A major issue which is being contested is the “flip flop” decision of the Public Service Commission between April 2010 and May 2010. There is no obvious record of why the Commission suddenly lifted the denial for the plant in April, first exclaiming it was too risky at 2.4 billion dollars and then approving it in May when the cost had been increased by 480 million dollars on a recommendation of a paid consultant! Readers will perhaps recall that on April 20, 2010 was when the BP Deep Horizon disaster occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. This entire matters smells rotten of corporate collusion with government officials. It should be noted that Governor Barbour’s lobbying firm has done work for years for the Southern Company, parent company of MS Power! We shall see what the Southern Company “reward” to Barbour was, hopefully soon!
A major concern is that MS Power can raise electricity rates while the plant is being constructed; the first rate increases are scheduled for January 2012! A second major concern is a grant from the Department of Energy of 300 million dollars as well as loan guarantees to support the unproven, risky coal gasification facility. One of the justices even made mention of the Solyndra Solar Facility in California which recently declared bankruptcy and cost the Department of Energy 500 million dollars. A third major concern is that this monstrosity is being built near the headwaters of the Pascagoula River, one of the only remaining unrestricted rivers in the entire U.S. There are so many things wrong with this project and the entire risk is being assumed by the public with essentially none by MS Power and at their profit!! There can hardly be a better example of corporate fascism at work in the entire country.
The MS Supreme Court should rule on this case early in the new year. It is essential we keep this matter in the public eye and reveal the entire story until everyone thoroughly understands the issues. There will be great tragedy in neglect or indifference. We owe the Sierra Club a great deal of thanks and support for their persistence and their efforts to protect the public.
Source of the picture above (Kemper Coal Plant construction) was a Facebook post and the original is believed to be from the Associated Press published in about September. Other pictures are from Mippi the Dork.
Not included in the photo above, of course, is the lignite coal mine; there are none available yet. But here is what you might expect under “best” conditions; this is the Inden lignite mine in Germany from a report, “Just Say No to Lignite Mining”.
“There were two new lakes being dug in the bottom of Inden mine. The mine engineer explained that some unexpected water problems had been encountered when developing this mine. These lakes were experimental lakes that would be used to try and find solutions to the water problems. Germany has been mining lignite since the 1930’s. They still have problems that they cannot predict before mining starts”.
Gerry went on to describe conditions at the mine.
“Dust was a real problem for us around the mines that day. It had rained heavily all night beforehand, and the roads inside the mine were muddy and wet. But the wind kicked up dust and sand all around us. We did get to see the main dust prevention scheme that Ballymoney Power plan to install for us. These are perimeter water sprays (below). They were not very large, nor were they turned on, despite the wind. Whether these will really contain dust efficiently is something we were not convinced of.”