New PSC member wants to know colleagues better



By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Even though Steve Renfroe has been serving on the Mississippi Public Service Commission representing the Southern District since September, he said he does not know his two fellow commissioners very well.

“I have great respect for them, but I really don’t them well at all,” he said Monday at a luncheon meeting of the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute of Government/Capitol press corps.

Because of the state’s open meetings laws, if two of the commissioners meet, he said, it is considered a quorum.

“We never meet except in open meetings,” he said. “I find that a hindrance and counterproductive.”

Renfroe said he would like to see an exemption in state law to allow the commissioners to at least become better acquainted.

Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Renfroe to the commission that regulates public utilities on Sept. 10 to replace Leonard Bentz who stepped down to become executive director of the South Mississippi Planning and Development District.

On Monday, Renfroe, a Moss Point resident, reiterated his pledge that he would not seek election to the post in 2015, meaning his term will end in January 2016.

Renfroe, who worked 35 years for Chevron on the Gulf Coast, the past 20 years managing public and government affairs in Mississippi, said he comes from a private sector background. He said he is a firm believer in the free market system and an opponent of overregulation by the government.

He conceded he has had to adjust to the commission that is charged with regulating public utilities that have no competition.

He said he believes certain free market principles can be incorporated into the PSC for the betterment of both the utilities and the customer.

“My loyalty is to Mississippi ratepayers and customers,” he said.

Renfroe said he believes no rate increases other than the already-in-place 15 percent increase and another scheduled 3 percent increase will be imposed on Mississippi Power Co. customers in south Mississippi to help fund the controversial coal-burning power plant in Kemper County.