On Thursday, the Mississippi Public Service Commission directed its staff members to post updates on the commission’s website detailing the progress of the construction of the power plant. According to Jeff Shepard (spokesman for Mississippi Power Co), the plant will open in August. He said that the documents are open to the public but were subject to a public records request. Also, the commission is looking into whether it can seal records relating to the plant that were kept secret. The vote was held during a public session in which engineers and monitors reviewed the status of construction at the Kemper County Energy Facility. Cecil Brown, the Central District commissioner of the Mississippi Public Service Commission, said that it has impacted so many people. “It’s great to hear our monitors confirm the things we have heard before people.” Since August 2014, the Kemper County facility has been running on natural gas. The plant’s third quarter extension is scheduled to be completed. It will convert lignite (a type of coal) into a gas that can help create electricity. The plant was originally scheduled to begin generating electricity from coal in 2013, but it was not certified. Shepard stated that the plant was scheduled to begin generating power in 2014 after it had been certified by the Public Service Commission. Shepard stated that the plant’s natural gas component was operational when it began to operate in 2013. However, harsh weather and delays in productivity prevented the extension from being completed. Shepard stated that the main reason for a lot of it was that this technology is being implemented is unique. We are constantly working to find and fix any issues or problems that may arise. This extends the schedule. This is something that we are focusing on safety-wise. Mississippi Power revealed in February that there were delays at the plant. The commission also discussed these issues in detail Thursday. They included problems operating several rotary valves/airlocks that unload coal and gasifiers refractory issues at high temperature. The plant has had an impact on the rates of the power company’s approximately 186,000 customers across 23 counties, from the Gulf Coast through Meridian. Shepard stated that the Kemper facility’s first rate hike was in April 2013. He stated that those rate increases increased base rates for customers by 15%. Kemper’s rate increases totaled 18% in January 2014. This was due to an additional 3 percent increase. The commission ordered Mississippi Power to cancel the rate increases for a month last summer. After a month of rate increases, the rates were lowered to zero and then returned to 18% for the remainder of 2015. The rate rise was restored to 15% by the Mississippi Supreme Court in January. Shepard stated that the total project cost is $6.6 billion. This is more than twice the original estimate of $3 billion for the plant. According to an agreement with the commission, the company will not collect more than a $2.88 million cap. This is in order to limit rate increases for customers. Shepard stated that Mississippi Power needed a new plant because it had not built one in 38 years. Also, lignite would allow the utility to diversify its fuel sources. Shepard stated that the plant was designed to prevent customers from becoming too dependent on natural gas, a volatile fuel source. Mississippi Power has been sued for delays and increased costs associated with getting the plant up and running. According to the Sun Herald newspaper on March 2, Island View Casino Resort and Biloxi Freezing & Process Inc. filed a lawsuit against Mississippi Power seeking to have all charges for the plant refunded. Dean and the other companies claimed that the suit was a fraud. In their lawsuit, the three allege that Mississippi Power deceived and cheated the public when it built the Kemper power station. The costs were then passed on to the commission as rate increases.