LAUREL, Miss.–Who’s paying for the Kemper Coal Plant and who will watch out for public corruption were the big topics at a political forum for state-wide and local candidates held in Jones County Tuesday, presented by Super Talk Mississippi.
Candidates for state Insurance Commission, governor, Public Service Commission, southern district, and state auditor were invited to speak.
Tommy Blanton, of Hattiesburg, was the only Democrat to speak at the forum. He used his five minutes to speak on his lawsuit that stopped the rate increases by Miss. Power for the Kemper Coal Plant.
“No one knows how much it’s gonna cost,” he said. “It is questionable if this science project will ever run as it is proposed.”
He said 34,000 pages of information about Kemper were sealed.
Blanton blasted Mississippi Power, saying the jobs created by Kemper so far have been temporary construction jobs.
“Kemper is a job killer and an economic wrecking ball.”
Blanton said he believes Mississippi Power has not returned the money from the rate increases over the last two years, as ordered, because there is no escrow account.
“Miss. Power admits they have spent the money as it came in. This is too much power for a power company to have.”
Neither of the two Republican candidates for PSC spoke favorably of the Kemper project.
Sam Britton, a CPA, said the Kemper Project will be the biggest issue the Public Service Commission will address.
“Kemper has been plagued by problems, delays, cost overruns. Kemper must show that the plant is operational and works. Kemper must show it can produce affordable and reliable power,” said Britton.
State Sen. Tony Smith said he believes the legislature should be demanding answers about Kemper.
“Why was the Sierra Club paid $15 million to be quiet? Who paid for that? Was it the stockholders or was it us, the ratepayers?”
Smith said that company officials were being paid settlements to sit it out and he would like know who’s paying those tabs, as well.
He said companies like Chevron and Ingalls and small businesses have been hurt by the 18 percent rate increases, which are now due to be returned.
Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler took stabs at State Auditor Stacey Pickering. She cited the magazine article that stated that Mississippi is a leader in public corruption.
“You’ll hear…explanations about why that’s not right. But it doesn’t matter. We’ve got the banner over us that says that. You’ll hear about accolades that have been given to our auditor, but let’s face it…the Dept. of Corrections ran wild for years, unchecked, with five audits on the auditor’s website that said everything was okay, and a billion dollars later, we found out it wasn’t.”
Hawkins-Butler also said the feds were responsible for taking care of business with Corrections and the Dept. of Marine Resources.She said Pickering goes for “low-hanging fruit”.
Pickering said the Dept. of Marine Resources investigation was a victory for his office.
“Yes, a culture of corruption existed at the Dept. of Marine Resources, and we held ’em accountable.”
“Nine individuals wound up pleading guilty. Not a one of ’em could stand before a judge and a jury, because they knew we put a case together they could not stand against.”
He said most of them were prosecuted by the state.
Pickering said his office works with the federal government to prosecute corruption.
Candidates for Insurance Commission and governor spoke (Bryant was the only candidate for governor who showed). You can hear for yourself: