Kemper Coal: SO’s bitter pill @ SO 2013-05-22

“Corporate responsiblity,” answered Southern Company CEO Thomas A. Fanning to questions about Kemper Coal from Linda St. Martin of Mississippians For Affordable Energy. I don’t think that word means what he thinks it means.

Ray Henry wrote for AP yesterday, Southern Co. CEO defends Miss. power project,

The head of Southern Co. called the decision to write off $540 million in extra costs on a Mississippi power plant “a bitter pill for us to swallow,” but he defended the project Wednesday as a long-term investment for the large utility.

Southern Co. has absorbed the unexpected charges of building Plant Ratcliffe in Mississippi’s Kemper County, a showcase facility designed to capture much of the carbon dioxide produced while burning local coal to make electricity. The carbon dioxide will then be sold to companies that use it to extract oil. If successful, supporters say the plant would prove the United States can still rely on coal as a fuel even if it moves to trim carbon dioxide emissions, a gas blamed for global warming.

Losses from the plant, a project of Southern Co. subsidiary Mississippi Power, proved a drag on the parent company’s net income, which fell 78 percent to $81 million during the first three months of the year compared to $368 million during the same period last year. Mississippi Power said it will not pass the extra costs on to its customers.

“That was a bitter pill for us to swallow,” CEO Thomas Fanning said, responding to a question during an annual meeting of shareholders in Georgia. “But it was appropriate. It shows, I think, appropriate corporate responsibility in this issue.”

SO’s sudden attack of corporate responsibility coincided with the MS Public Service Commission capping the costs MS Power could pass on to its ratepayers. Fanning didn’t mention (but MS Sierra Club has that the MS legislature in February approved letting MS Power issue up to $1 billion in bonds to cover further cost overruns. If MS Power and SO are so responsible, why did they lobby for those bonds? And if SO is so responsible, how about eat the cost overruns for Plant Vogtle, as well? Betty Liu of Bloomberg, among others, linked those two projects.

One project critic, Linda St. Martin, representing Mississippians For Affordable Energy, challenged Fanning on whether the company has accounted for all costs.

“What is going to be the next shoe that falls?” she said.

Fanning claimed not building Kemper Coal would make the citizens of Mississippi more dependent on natural gas (I heard him say that). Corporate responsibility would include building solar power in MS and across the southeast instead.

Fanning’s new rule prohibited videoing not authorized by SO, but Linda St. Martin made her own video back in March:

If they want to build that power plant, I don’t care. But if they want me to pay for it, untried, untested, whether it ever kicks out a kilowatt of energy or not, I say no, no.

Ray Henry tweeted this late yesterday:

That’s right, SO’s “clean coal” project will contribute to extracting more oil, which, when burned, will produce more CO2! Does this seem like a good idea to you when more energy sunshine falls on Mississippi in one day than Kemper Coal will ever produce?

When will Tom Fanning and Mississippi Power (whoever is running it now), take real corporate responsibility and cancel Kemper Coal in favor of solar power in Mississippi and across the southeast?