Sid Salter's recent column ("PSC flap couldn't be less about ratepayers' interests," July 8), which flippantly concludes that the interests of ratepayers are of little consequence, could not be further from the truth. In reality, the current predicament facing the unfunded Public Service Commission and Public Utilities Staff could not be more about the interests of ratepayers.
The commission has worked tirelessly to ensure that the interests of ratepayers are protected under established Mississippi law. For example, the commission took action to verify that utilities have properly imposed energy surcharges. As part of this verification, the law requires the PSC to submit a report to the Legislature every year certifying that independent audits "based upon generally accepted auditing standards" are actually done.
Because the Public Utilities Staff has admitted that it does not conduct actual audits, the PSC needs employees capable of complying with the statutorily-mandated audits. The PSC and this office support measures necessary to comply with this law, which is all about protecting ratepayers. Concerns arise when a utility uses its legislative and executive allies to weaken the commission's diligent efforts to fulfill its responsibilities to ratepayers.
In addition, the commission is taking sound steps to ensure proper implementation of new legislative measures designed to meet Mississippi's future energy needs. For example, the commission has established a well-reasoned, phased approach for its consideration of the Kemper County coal plant proposed by Mississippi Power Company under the 2008 Baseload Act.
Contrary to Mr. Salter's suggestion, I have not opposed this plant.
Instead, I have participated in the case to make sure that the commission is provided the information it needs, as well as the necessary time, to make the factual and legal decisions that are in the best interest of ratepayers.
Mr. Salter's cursory comments regarding my "unsuccessful challenge" are factually incorrect.
It was neither a challenge nor unsuccessful. Such clearly erroneous comments should lead readers to wonder if Mr. Salter's words are shading the facts. The facts are that the commission followed a majority of the suggestions we made, which were simply that the commission establish a process for a prudent examination of requests made pursuant to the new law.
In this tough economy, ratepayers must be protected. The complex issues surrounding utilities and the rates ultimately paid by Mississippians require resources, including additional staff.
The positions are paid by fees from the utilities, not taxpayers. These positions are not duplicative because the Public Utilities Staff does not conduct audits as required by law of the PSC. In the end, these positions will save the ratepayers money by catching overcharges.
Who's kidding whom? This battle is all about ratepayers.
Jim Hood is Mississippi's attorney general.