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Opponents slam Mississippi Power's proposed rate increase

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Nov. 3, 2001
Representatives of consumer and environmental groups criticized Mississippi Power Co.'s proposed rate increase Friday, ripping the utility for neglecting the environment and hurting low-income families.
Johnson and other opponents spoke at a news conference at Union Station. Mississippi Power appears before the Mississippi Public Service Commission on Wednesday to ask approval for its proposed rate increase.
Mississippi Power filed a petition with the PSC in August, requesting a 9.5 percent increase in electric rates. Residential service for 1,000 kilowatt-hours costs about $80 a month; a 9.5 percent increase would raise the price to $87.60 a month.
Mississippi Power serves 191,000 customers in Meridian and Southeast Mississippi.
Kurt Brautigam, Mississippi Power Co. spokesman, said the rate increase would raise $46 million for the company. Brautigam said Mississippi Power officials estimate they need that money to operate the company in the future.
At the news conference, Edd Jussely Jr., executive director for Energy Consumers for Choice in Mississippi, said he will not attend next week's PSC hearings on Mississippi Power because "it's just the game they play."
Jussely, a former employee of Entergy which provides electricity to residents in Central Mississippi said people should appeal to lawmakers to change the system the PSC uses to approve rate increases.
Jussely said he expects all three PSC members to approve about a 6 percent rather than a full 9.5 percent rate increase.
He said the increase would "soak money" from people through grocery purchases, retail purchases and health care costs because store costs and hospital rates also will rise.
Aaron Viles, Mississippi organizer for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, slammed Mississippi Power and its parent, Southern Co., for failing to spend money on pollution-control equipment. Viles said Mississippi Power operates "dirty, coal-fired power plants."
He chastised the company for spending money to lobby lawmakers to "make the political climate as hospitable to their pollution as possible."
Brautigam said the company complies with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations designed to protect public health and the environment.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.

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