Rural Utilities Service approves EIS for Kemper County project

The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) has issued a Record of Decision (ROD) approving the final environmental impact statement (EIS) covering the financing that the South Mississippi Electric Power Association needs to participate in Plant Ratcliffe, an integrated gasification combined-cycle power plant now under construction in Kemper County, Miss.

The Acting Administrator of RUS has signed the ROD, which is effective on the publication of a notice in the Sept 26 Federal Register. The U.S. Department of Energy wrote an EIS for the project in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The EIS was needed so that the DOE could assess potential cost-shared financing under the Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI) and issuance of a loan guarantee under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and the Corps could issue permits under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

The DOE/Corps final EIS was issued in May 2010, and DOE issued its own ROD in August 2010. RUS noted that it is considering providing a $480m loan guarantee to SMEPA that would cover the acquisition of a 15% undivided ownership interest in the Kemper County project. RUS determined that the actions covered by the DOE/Corps final EIS and RUS’s proposed action were substantially the same, given that no new infrastructure would be required for SMEPA’s participation. RUS conducted an independent evaluation of the DOE/Corps final EIS in reaching its ROD.

The Kemper County project has an expected net generation capacity of 573 MW, and has been designed to capture about 67% of the CO2 that enters the facility as fuel. The fuel is lignite from a neighboring mine being developed by contractor North American Coal.

Project backer Mississippi Power, owned by Southern Co. (NYSE: SO), which provides about a third of SMEPA’s load through a power purchase agreement (PPA) at cost-based wholesale rates, approached SMEPA in 2009 with the opportunity to participate in the project, RUS said. Due to the existing PPA with Mississippi Power, SMEPA rates will be affected regardless of its participation in the project, RUS added.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.