/PSC approves over $60 million in compliance projects for coal units in Jackson County

PSC approves over $60 million in compliance projects for coal units in Jackson County

Plant Daniel must comply with federal environmental standards last year. The projects will focus on closing the coal ash pond at this plant. The deadline for plants closing ash ponds was extended by the Environmental Protection Agency in July 2018. This extension was made effective October 2020. It is not yet clear if Mississippi Power will pass these costs onto its ratepayers. In a public hearing, the PSC heard arguments from members of the Mississippi Sierra Club. The Sierra Club suggested that Mississippi Power should close all coal-fired units, and only the ashpond closure would be required, reducing the cost by $45 millions. The costs of the project: Despite Mississippi Power’s uncertainity about who will pay, the Sierra Club claimed that ratepayers would be responsible. Robert Wiygul, an attorney for the Sierra Club, stated that there is a disagreement between Mississippi Power, the Sierra Club, and how uneconomic the plant is. However, it is merely a difference in degree. It is not a matter of whether it is economically unsound. Mississippi Power, which provides energy to Southeastern Mississippi, said that closing the Jackson County facility would cause reliability problems for its customers. According to the Sierra Club, Plant Daniel generates more than 1,000 MW at its maximum capacity but only 25 percent of the time. Brandon Presley, Northern District Commissioner, was content that Mississippi Power would be in violation of federal law if it did not approve the projects. Presley stated that no one would dispute that the project was not approved and that they must meet 2020 deadline to avoid violating federal law. Presley said that the PSC can still close the coal units in the future even though the projects were approved. Both units will be retired by 2046. The federal law in question is the EPA’s Coal Ash Rule. It was established in 2015 following coal ash spillages in Tennessee and North Carolina which caused river contamination. Andrew Wheeler, an ex-coal lobbyist, is the EPA Administrator. He updated the law in 2016 so that utility companies have more flexibility. Florida utility Gulf Power owns 50 percent of the Plant Daniel coal units and has announced its intention to retire that portion. The Environmental Integrity Project’s March report on coal ash pollution revealed that groundwater near Plant Daniel contained five times the amount of safe lithium.