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New Hearing Set For Friday On Kemper Power Plant

"Because of the lignite and its location in Mississippi and the ability to build the plant right next to where the lignite would be mined, Kemper was the best option," said Mississippi Power spokesman Jeff Shepard. "It was then and it is now."

Commissioners Leonard Bentz and Lynn Posey, who voted for the new permit, have argued that the commission collected plenty of evidence on the need for Kemper during hearings before the initial 2010 decisions. They issued a 133-page order in April citing the earlier inquiry. Both they and Mississippi Power say there's no need to reopen those proceedings.

"Nothing on our end has changed," Shepard said. "We didn't offer any new evidence. We didn't put anything new into the record. The order was just rewritten."

It's the second time that Persons will hear arguments about the legality of Kemper. The first case that went to the Supreme Court started in his courtroom. However, it's unclear exactly what evidence he will consider. Miller said Persons required all the documents in the case to be filed under seal.

Since the PSC voted 2-1 to grant the new permission, Mississippi Power has announced cost overruns of more than $400 million. Miller said he believed the plant's increased cost "adds credibility to our arguments."

Despite the increased costs, Southern Co. has said it believes rates will not go up any more than had already been projected. That's because the company is borrowing money at lower rates of interest than originally projected. Company officials also believe byproducts of carbon dioxide, sulfuric acid and ammonia can be sold for more than planned.

Mississippi Power says rates will rise about 33 percent, although opponents say they will climb by more.

___

Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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