The two candidates for the Mississippi Public Service Commission’s Central District commissioner position made their pitches to voters Monday and the pair agree on issues far more often than not.
Republican Brent Bailey and Jackson City Councilman De’Keither Stamps, a Democrat who represents Jackson’s Ward 4, will battle in November to replace retiring Central District Commissioner Cecil Brown.
Both candidates support increased renewable energy, such as wind and solar, and both promise to keep utility rates low while promoting maximum energy efficiency. Both also touted their ability to work across party lines.
The Mississippi Public Service Commission regulates rates with the state’s two investor-owned utilities (Mississippi Power and Entergy) and also regulates telecommunications, natural gas, water and sewer utilities.
Stamps, a former U.S. Marine and Army veteran who owns a farm in Learned, proposed an energy efficiency audit of every state-owned building to provide savings for taxpayers.
“The actual government of the state of Mississippi, from state government to county governments to city governments to school districts, we spend too much money on utilities,” Stamps said. “The biggest savings we have for our budgets is to make all of our buildings be more energy efficient. We need to reduce those costs across the state.”
He also wants municipalities to partner with cellular providers to erect more cellular towers and improve services as an expansion of public/private partnerships which Stamps said he wants to encourage as part of the PSC.
“When it comes to the utilities, we’re going to be the most aggressive Public Service Commission you’ve ever seen,” Stamps said. “We’re going to be focused on making sure the interests of our ratepayers and our utilities are taken care of. Utilities are very important and provide great service in economic development and providing quality of life.”
Bailey, a Mississippi State University graduate and engineer in the energy sector, is running on a platform of energy efficiency, ending robocalls and providing cost-effective broadband to rural communities.
Bailey has been an intervenor in many matters before the PSC, including net metering (which allows homeowners with solar systems to sell some of their excess generation back to the grid) and the controversial Kemper Project.
Bailey was a strong critic against Mississippi Power’s Kemper Project, an integrated coal gasification power plant that was later converted to a natural gas-fueled plant at a massive savings for ratepayers.
Taxpayers could’ve been on the hook in the form of rate hikes for more than $6.5 billion, later reduced to slightly more than a $1 billion.
Mississippi Power has yet to decide what it will do with the mothballed gasifer units at what is now called Plant Ratcliffe, a 30-minute drive north of Meridian.
“I’d like to think I’m the candidate with the most experience, the qualifications, the know-how and the independence to really be the voice of the consumer at the Public Service Commission,” Bailey said. “I, and others, sounded the alarm on Kemper. Questioning its justification and the viability of its technology and certainly its impact on rates for consumers.
“We certainly believe that with simple transparency and an unyielding commitment to due diligence, we could’ve avoided the magnitude of that project that lies in the political lore with the beef plant and the KiOR facility.”