Southern Co. faces risks on Miss. power plant
In this Nov. 13, 2012 photograph, the top of the crystallizers at the water treatment plant shows a project still in progress at Mississippi Power's Kemper County energy facility near DeKalb, Miss. The plant, still under construction, is designed to use a soft form of coal called lignite in a gasification process to generate power. The project has come under legal challenge by the Mississippi Sierra Club. The environmental organization says the gasification technology is expensive and unproven. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
DEKALB — Each day, as 2,600 construction workers toil away at Plant Ratcliffe in central Mississippi, the big bet becomes more expensive. The project's cost is at least $2.8 billion, almost half a billion dollars above original expectations, and some estimates say it will go higher.
Legal challenges brought by the Sierra Club have led regulators to block Mississippi Power Co. from billing customers for the costs so far, although the Southern Co. subsidiary got closer to that goal with a favorable lower court ruling earlier this month.
Southern CEO Thomas Fanning stands by the plant. He says Southern's own technology will mitigate its environmental impact and the need to exploit coal as a hedge against uncertainties in the future cost of natural gas, which is currently cheap and abundant.