Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Southern Company's boondoggle at the Kemper Plant in Mississippi, prompts the Arm and Arm social coalition to seek justice in showdown with "Big Power"

Kemper Plant (Mississippi Power)


Part Two

A social-change coalition -- devoted to racial and economic justice, and ending the climate crisis -- has joined the fight against alleged corruption tied to Southern Company and its affiliate, Mississippi Power, according to an article at the Mississippi Free Press (MFP)

An organization called Arm in Arm is launching a campaign to bring attention to the societal costs of mismanagement, cost overruns, safety concerns, and other issues at Southern Company's Kemper Power Plant near De Kalb, Mississippi. Writes MFP's Artis Burney under the headline "Power For Southern People, Not the Southern Power Company:

The disaster of the Kemper Power Plant was merely the most recent in a long series of unethical actions taken by Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Power. Their stunning corporate greed and long history of disregard for the communities of color they disproportionately harm led Arm in Arm, a coalition dedicated to centering racial and economic justice and ending the climate crisis, to launch the Power 4 Southern People NOT Southern Power campaign.

What about background of the 'Kemper disaster" and its impact on everyday Mississippians? Burney provides it:

In 2010, construction began on the Kemper Power Plant, touted as the pinnacle of the movement to bring “clean coal” to America. The plant—which was intended to be the largest of its kind and a proof-of-concept for future plants to follow—then spent the next 11 years trying and failing to become operational, while Southern Power, the monopoly that owned it, fobbed the costs of its ill-conceived venture off on Kemper County residents. 

Despite the fact that the plant never provided clean-coal power to a single person, local people saw their utility bills go up and up as the years wore on—until one day, the plant itself went down.

Power 4 Southern People aims to take power out of the hands of corporate energy monopolies and the corrupt politicians who feed them and return it where it belongs: to the people. This moment marks the one-year anniversary of the Kemper Plant implosion and Mississippi Power’s exploitation—a glaring culmination of years of climate injustice inequities affecting thousands of people in communities across the state.

In some instances, issues at the Kemper Plant were earth-shaking for local residents, writes Burney:

In the early hours of October 9, 2021, houses in Kemper County shook as though from an earthquake. But this was no accident of nature. This was the planned partial implosion of the Kemper Power Plant. Residents were not informed of the plan to demolish a section of the $7.5-billion dollar plant—but  residents were not informed then of a lot of things. 

For instance, many folks living in the plant’s vicinity were told the plant would create jobs, but were not told that their medical bills would likely increase due to the many health hazards associated with living in the immediate vicinity of a power plant. Neither were they told that, in the more than 10 years since construction began on the plant, the project had gone more than $4 billion over budget, despite never producing a megawatt of so-called “clean-coal” power for the community. And they certainly didn’t know that they had personally footed the bill for that overage. 

Mississippi Power had simply and quietly increased utility bill rates on residents to cover rising costs, all while launching insidious ad campaigns implying that the increased cost was due to irresponsible personal usage. Mississippi Power did all of this knowingly and, they believed, with impunity. As the main power provider in the state, they thought they could act in whatever way most benefited their shareholders, without having to suffer the consequences.

Burney is a voice of both journalism and advocacy:

It is time for the people to show Mississippi Power that they are wrong. This is far from the first time a massive corporation has taken advantage of economically disenfranchised people or communities of color (as of 2021 the Kemper County community is comprised of 67.2% majority Black, indigenous and Latino residents). Nor is it the first time a predatory utility monopoly has let those communities foot the bill for their own mismanagement,  while simultaneously taking federal tax credits from corrupt politicians. With your help, however, it could be among the last.

It is imperative that we the people begin to hold Southern Company and its subsidiaries responsible for the economic and climate damage they have caused in our communities. We demand that monopolies like Mississippi Power are held to account for their corrupt practices and begin to make reparations for the damages they have done to communities—disproportionately Black people and people of color—in the past. 

We demand that Mississippi Power prioritize the well-being and prosperity of its customers and communities before its shareholders. In order to advance a pollution-free economy, we center the power of the people over corporations in the battle to end the climate crisis.

The power belongs to the people, and together we can take it back.

Speaking of demands, Arm in Arm has its demands for Mississippi spelled out on its Web site:

We will not be divided or conquered because we are intersectional and inclusive.

Southern Company, a monopoly utility based in Atlanta, GA, owns Georgia Power, Alabama Power, and Mississippi Power. Southern, its smaller companies, and the politicians in their pockets use their power to attack our voting and reproductive rights and cause environmental harm in Black and low-wealth communities. They also work together to pass laws that make the climate crisis worse and continue increasing your energy bills. We in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia DEMAND that the new incoming Southern Company CEO put ratepayers and communities first over shareholders and profits. These are our demands:

  1. WE DEMAND that Southern Company stop using our ratepayer dollars in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia to influence politicians. 

  2. WE DEMAND that Southern Company stop putting dangerous greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change in the air (including Scope 1, 2, & 3 emissions

  3. WE DEMAND that Southern Company immediately halt all dirty-energy projects (including gas, coal and nuclear) and dramatically scale up solar, wind, storage, and energy efficiency through a just transition. 

  4. WE DEMAND that Southern Company through Mississippi Power, Alabama Power, and Georgia Power respect the rights of its workers to form unions and require their contractors to do the same. Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia 

  5. WE DEMAND that energy production and distribution across Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia cease to disproportionately impact the health, well-being, environments and economies of those living in black, indigenous, or persons of color, and low-wealth communities. 

  6. WE DEMAND that Southern Company, in authentic partnership and collaboration with the community, take immediate steps to repair the environmental and economic damage it has caused

  7. WE DEMAND that Southern Company prioritize the economic welfare of all its customers and communities, in which they operate or do business, before the financial interests of its shareholders. 

I pledge to further participate in resistance with targeted non-violent civil disobedience against Southern Company until our demands are met. We declare that we are taking back our power and DEMAND Power 4 Southern People NOT Southern Company.

We speak as a unified collective voice.  The choice belongs to Southern Power Company to clean up its act at the scale needed to meet the climate crisis.

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