JACKSON, Miss. – A Hattiesburg businessman is not giving up on his challenge to a coal-fired power plant being built by Mississippi Power Company in Kemper County.
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In a motion filed Monday with the Mississippi Supreme Court, Thomas Blanton asked the justices to delay dismissing lawsuits against the power plant until they address his constitutional challenge to the 2008 Baseload Act. The law allows utilities to raise rates to pay for new power plants before they begin generating electricity.
Blanton, who has aimed his lawsuit at Kemper, says collecting from customers before a power plant is turned on is unconstitutional.
His motion was filed the same day the Sierra Club and Mississippi Power announced they'd settled their differences and would seek dismissal of all lawsuits against the Kemper plant.
The Supreme Court consolidated Blanton's lawsuit with two others challenging Mississippi Power Company's construction of the plant in eastern Mississippi.
Blanton argues in his motion that dismissal of the lawsuits is not in the best interest of the public.
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The court has not ruled on Blanton's motion. The court has also not ruled on the motion filed by the Sierra Club and Mississippi Power.
Mississippi Power spokesman Jeff Shepard said company officials were reviewing Blanton's motion.
In their motion to dismiss the lawsuits, the Sierra Club and Mississippi Power said other parties "have been consulted and state that they do not object to this motion."
Blanton said he was unaware of the settlement talks between the Sierra Club and Mississippi Power.
He said the settlement proposal "will result in circumstances which are onerous to the public and potentially dangerous to the economic well-being of the Mississippi public, both at large and with specific reference to the customers of Mississippi Power Company."
Mississippi Power and other utilities backed the Baseload Act, which was also supported by then-Gov. Haley Barbour.
In the settlement announcement Monday, Mississippi Power said it will convert several units from coal to natural gas at plants in south Mississippi and Greene County, Alabama, or else retire them.
The Sierra Club will drop regulatory challenges before the Public Service Commission and legal appeals pending in local and state courts.
Mississippi Power will establish a $15 million fund to provide low-income residents with insulation, energy-efficient appliances and other ways to save on their bills. The fund also will be used to provide grants for schools and charities for solar and other renewable energy.