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Miss. PSC grants Sierra Club's request for hearing on coal plant upgrades

The Mississippi Public Service Commission will hold a special hearing Oct. 24 regarding Mississippi Power Co.'s request to recover costs for upgrades at the Victor J. Daniel Jr. coal plant, after the Sierra Club filed a motion with utility regulators questioning the utility's strategy.

On July 9, the Southern Co. subsidiary filed a petition with the PSC to approve its plans to spend about $62.5 million for three coal combustion residual projects at the 1,146-MW coal-fired plant. The coal ash projects include closing an ash pond, building a wastewater facility and converting bottom ash collection facilities.

Mississippi Power, which has a 50% stake in Daniel's two units with NextEra Energy Inc. corporate affiliate Gulf Power Co., said the upgrades are necessary to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's rules. However, the Sierra Club said the projects and the cost recovery are unnecessary and that the utility failed to properly consider all options, including retirement.

"[Mississippi Power] has not provided the basic information necessary to determine whether there are better alternatives to retrofitting Plant Daniel," Robert Wiygul, legal counsel for the Sierra Club's Mississippi Chapter, said in a Sept. 23 filing requesting the hearing. "Mississippi Power has basically avoided this kind of hard look by asserting that retirement of Daniel is off the table regardless of the plant's economics."

According to S&P Global Market Intelligence data, the plant had a capacity factor of 26.74% in 2018. Unit 1 began commercial operations in 1977 and unit 2 came online in 1981.