Bentz defends Kemper as he prepares to leave PSC

August 15, 2013 10:38:52 AM



JACKSON -- Public Service Commissioner Leonard Bentz hasn't set a date to resign and become executive director of the South Mississippi Planning and Development District. But the Republican probably won't be a commissioner by the time the state's utility regulators meet again on Sept. 10. 


"Probably so," he said when asked if Tuesday's PSC meeting was his last. "Not 100 percent, but I would say probably so." 


As Bentz leaves office, he continues to defend Mississippi Power Co.'s construction of coal-fired plant in Kemper County, saying the commission has limited costs to ratepayers so far. He says he's not fleeing the disputes that surround the project or the votes commissioners face on the project over the coming year, even as completion nears. 


"I own Kemper," Bentz said. "Kemper's mine. There's no running from Kemper." 


The plant, including a mine and pipeline, is projected to cost $4.7 billion. Atlanta-based parent Southern Co. has agreed to pay $1 billion. Another $1 billion is supposed to be diverted into bonds that customers would repay without profit for Mississippi Power. The remaining price is supposed to be covered by a 15 percent rate increase that the commission approved earlier this year, followed by 3 percent next year. 


"I think it's imperative that the new commissioner who comes into this seat sticks by the order we made Mississippi Power sign on to," Bentz said.