Regulating Necessities of Modern Life for the Public Good
November 7 — Electricity, natural gas and Internet access, three necessities of modern life, were the focus of Brandon Presley, Mississippi’s Northern District Public Service Commissioner.
The PSC chair said that a main staple of economic development and the resurgence of manufacturing in Mississippi is access to low-cost, American-produced natural gas. It is a linchpin in business recruitment.
Although there are 10,000 miles of pipeline throughout state, Oktibbeha Count is missing a key supply line to the new Oktibbeha County innovation district developing just north of Highway 82 in Starkville.
A definite route has yet to be set; however, the PSC is encouraging the use of public right-of-way for a good portion of the line from Pheba to Starkville. Negotiations for rights-of-way across private land are underway.
Atmos Energy has committed to an investment of $13.3 million to develop the project.
Presley held up the development effort as an example of working across party and county lines. He especially thanked Jack Wallace for his leadership.
Pattern Energy’s Southern Cross high voltage direct current transmission line is projected to cross Oktibbeha County towards a converter station in Caledonia. Consultations are underway over the rights-of-way for the wind generated energy originating in Garland, Tex.
“I was a strong proponent of the constitutional amendment four years ago that says you can’t take private land for a private purposes,” said the Nettleton native. “Eminent domain should only be used in a matter in which the public interest is furthered. Pattern Energy has to prove that the people of Mississippi are in fact benefiting.”
The state will be impacted by the company’s eastern HVDC converter station and approximately 200 miles of transmission line.
“One of the greatest concerns is that the $400 million converter station might be moved just over the line into Alabama,” said Presley. “Such a move kills any idea of a public interest for the people of Mississippi. I have real issues if we’re just going to be traveled over for somebody else’s benefit.”
He called for affected landowners to contact his office. “I want the company to sit down and talk with Mississippians,” he said. “Don’t just sit in the high corporate offices out of state and come say here’s what we want to come and do.”
“I also want to see that our TVA-based utilities get a good deal,” he said. “I don’t want to see the company promise infrastructure that will generate tax revenue and then seek a tax exemption. Southern Cross cannot build this line if they do not have a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the PSC.”
On the issue of digital access for everyone, Presley said “We need legislators to understand that Internet service is not a luxury. It’s not about government regulation. It’s just about the pace of modern day life. It is idiotic for anybody to think that in 2016, high speed Internet service is somehow a luxurious feature of modern day life. It is a requirement.”
He noted that, in less than five years, 70 percent of all homework assigned to Mississippi children has come to require Internet access. “If we are to win the jobs in the future, we have to ensure reliable and affordable Internet access to every home, every child and every small business in the State of Mississippi.”
To serve peripheral areas just out of current service zones, the PSC is implementing a $99 million, ten-year Federal grant. In the Golden Triangle, 513 households qualify and will benefit from $150,000 per year dedicated to extend service.
The commission wants to encourage businesses to commit, so it is expediting the application review by cutting its filing period in half. It has dedicated staff to coordinate between developers and existing public service providers for shared infrastructure such as smart grid technologies and excess fiber optic capacity.
Presley also reiterated his conflict with Southern Company over its Kemper lignite coal gasification plant that was proposed to cost $2.4 billion, but is now “bumping $7 billion.”
His initial opposition was based on the fact that the technology was not proven to be workable and the company could only document about ten percent of the actual cost.
For the Record—November 7
Invocation and Pledge: Debra Hicks
Present — 109 (46 exempt, 1 honorary)
Absent — 71 (15 exempt, 11 honorary)
Makeup reported: Kyle Jordan in Philadelphia.
Guests: Visiting Rotarians were John Brady and Jimmy McCluskey. Member guests were Marie Allsopp of Cory Lucius, Kelly Cutshall of Matt Matthews, Shawn Smith of Jeremy Nicholas and Boomer Brown of Garrett Whitehurst. Guests of the club were Garret Smith, Elisa Malzanni, RYE student, and Josh Starr, Starkville Dispatch.
Kris Godwin of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation will tell us of wild animal protection in Mississippi. Jim Tisdale will introduce her.
Next Week: Public Service Commission
Sam Britton is Southern District Public Service Commissioner.
- President Briar congratulated Bill Henry for a fine article about his military service in the Starkville Dispatch recognizing Veteran’s Day.
- Jeff Donald recognized Rotarians who have served in the armed forces. He reminded us of a number of Veteran’s Day observances around the community.
- Later in the program, our speaker announced a plan for $111 per year phone service discounts for qualified veterans who are struggling financially.
- Members were reminded to fill an Operation Christmas Child shoe box or to write a $25 check for Boy Scout Troop 14 to fill, pack and ship a box.
Meet and Greet New Members
The after-hours fellowship to get to know this year’s new members is tomorrow evening at Bin 612 from 5:30 to 7:30.
Rotary Youth Exchange
Grant Arinder, Rotary Youth Exchange chair, encouraged members to become more involved in the program by inviting Elisa to take part in family outings. Part of the student’s experience is to learn as many different things about our culture.
He then introduced the week’s prospective RYE student, Garret Smith, Starkville Academy junior class vice president. Serving as the statewide secretary for the National Honor Society, he also participates in football, soccer, track and cross country.
11/15, 9:00, First Presbyterian, Sandra Harpole
11/17, 9:15, Emerson, Christina Lucas
11/18, 10:00, First Baptist CLC, Jeremy Nicholas