Crashing the Kemper Coal Groundbreaking

Air_Banner_WCBI_Lead_Story_12.16_cropped Photo from WCBI's Coverage of GroundbreakingBy Raleigh Hoke, Gulf Restoration Network.

Last month, Mississippi Power’s groundbreaking ceremony for the proposed dirty Kemper coal plant included the addition of an airplane banner, reading “Dirty Expensive Unnecessary,” sponsored by Gulf Restoration Network and our partners at the Sierra Club.  We wanted to send the message that, despite the groundbreaking ceremony, Mississippi Power still hasn’t cleared the legal and regulatory hurdles it needs to move forward with the proposal.

“Just three short months ago, the Mississippi Supreme Court rejected Mississippi Power’s two motions regarding the Kemper coal plant and mine as ‘frivolous’,” said Louie Miller, state director of the Mississippi Sierra Club, “This ribbon-cutting ceremony is a shameless publicity stunt meant to ram this project down the public’s throat before Mississippi residents and Mississippi Power ratepayers have had their day in court.” 

The proposed project is estimated to cost at least $2.88 billion and these costs and associated risks will be saddled on the backs of the ratepayers. The Mississippi Public Service Commission has given Mississippi Power the green-light to pass the costs onto its consumers along with a 12% rate of “profit” on each dollar spent. According to an investigation by the Mississippi Business Journal, this controversial decision, which Sierra Club is currently suing over, will raise electric bills by more than 45%.

“The experimental Kemper coal plant and mine would permanently damage over 1,800 acres of wetlands and more than 53,000 feet of streams that are incredibly valuable for flood protection, wildlife and recreation,” said Raleigh Hoke, Gulf Restoration Network’s Mississippi Organizer, “Similar coal deposits lie under much of central and north Mississippi. Which community will Mississippi Power dig up for the next massive coal strip mine?”

While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not yet approved the required wetland permits, the Gulf Restoration Network, Sierra Club, and concerned citizens are continuing to fight their approval. Large-scale lignite mining like that being proposed for Kemper County has been underway in other parts of the U.S. and beyond for decades, but the practice is not without significantimpacts to the environment and nearby communities. In Germany, for example, lignite coal strip mining has displaced more than 300 communities and over 100,000 people.

“My family has been on this land for one hundred years, and as the crow flies, our farm is only 2.5 miles from where this dirty plant would be built,” said local resident Barbara Correro, “Kemper County is a safe place to live, the people are friendly, and it’s a great place to retire. I don’t want to see this dirty coal plant and mine put an end to what we have.”Raleigh Hoke

Read more about dirty lignite coal mining in the latest addition of Wave Maker’s News.

Raleigh Hoke is the Gulf Restoration Network's Mississippi Organizer