Power company's request for jet spending sparks public hearing - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Power company's request for jet spending sparks public hearing

Posted: Updated:
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

"That's crazy. If they want to fly around on corporate jets let them pay for it. It shouldn't be the consumers of Mississippi."

That's the response from Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley after Mississippi Power made a request a few months ago to the public service commission, a request Presley calls corporate greed.

Presley says the power company tried to include $900,000 in corporate jet expenses into their utility rates to be paid by Mississippi Power customers.

"They should be ashamed for filing something at this commission asking to recover that kind of money for corporate jet expense. It's wrong and they should pay for it out of their own pocket," said Presley.

Although a legal request, the company withdrew it after the commission's utility staff discovered it. The initial request prompted a public hearing Thursday morning on a rule which changes how utility companies across the state can expense their travel, an effort led by Presley.

While commissioners understand air travel is a business expense, they say it should be the lower cost option, like flying in coach rather than in a private jet. That's just what the rule is set to do.

Southern District Commissioner Leonard Bentz says passing off travel expenses shouldn't even be first class travel, only the essential necessitates.

"We want to make sure that cost of doing business is frugal, as frugal as it can be," said Bentz.

"That's why I proposed this rule to say don't even come in here again and ask us that stupid question," said Presley.

During the hearing, Mississippi power attorney Ricky Cox indicated the company reviewed the rule.

"Mississippi Power Company in August filed extensive comments on the proposed rule and at this time we would adopt the comments," said Cox.

Presley says there's not always a lot of documentation related to air travel and in the past some companies filed the trips as confidential which keeps commissioners and customers from knowing where they're flying.

"What do they need a plane for in the first place, but if they've got one, let them pay for it. It shouldn't be the guy or the gal on the street struggling to pay their power bill," said Presley.

"All reasonable and prudent travel expenses are recoverable by law in public utility rates. Mississippi Power uses all modes of travel to conduct its business, including corporate aircraft, when necessary," said Mississippi Power spokesperson Cindy Duvall in a statement.  

The statement went on to say "The Commission's proposed rule unnecessarily assumes that commercial air is the most cost effective means of travel, that it is adequate to meet MPC's needs and is available when needed. Reasonable and necessary travel expenses, regardless of the mode of transportation, are prudent and required to carry out public utility business and should be treated similar to any other operating expense."

Copyright 2011 WLBT. All rights reserved.

Powered by WorldNow