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Mississippi Considers Limiting PSC Oversight of Electric Coops

March 7, 2016 By Cheryl Kaften

Two bills (SB 2089, HB 1139) – introduced respectively by Sen. Terry Burton (R-31) and by Rep. Charles Beckett (R-23) of the Mississippi Legislature — would revise electric power association law to limit the regulatory authority of the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) to govern electric cooperatives in the Magnolia State.

As of February 25, the House bill, which is being reviewed by the Public Utilities Committee, would limit the commission’s purview over:

  • Rates charged by the cooperative;
  • The acquisition, construction, ownership, operation, maintenance, and improvement of generating and/or transmission assets;
  • The cooperative’s ability to incur obligations and liabilities, such as entering contracts, borrowing money, or issuing notes, bonds, or certificates of indebtedness; and
  • Mediation proceedings of disputes between members or customers.

As of February 29, the Senate bill – which has been passed by the Energy Committee via a voice vote and transmitted to the House in its amended version – limits the commission’s authorities in the same respects.

According to the local Jackson Free Press, solar advocates are hot under the collar about the leeway that these measures would give cooperatives over consumer benefits such as net metering and smart grid investments.

Indeed, Mississippi Solar has sent out a message to its contacts about what it characterizes as the “Electric Co-op Power Grab,” according to the newspaper. The solar firm is warning that the new regulations would abolish net metering rules for residential rooftop solar, kill interconnection standards, allow mergers (including those across state lines), and create “a new code section that indemnifies (i.e. shields) electric power co-ops’ board[s] of directors and officers from civil, criminal. Administrative, or investigative proceedings … in essence a ‘Get-Out-of- Jail-Free’ pass.”

The targeted effective date of the bills, if passed, is July 1.

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