The New York Times Slams Kemper Power Plant
The New York Times issued an intense article directed towards the Mississippi Power Kemper plant today.
The article critiqued Southern Company’s need for millions of dollars over budget to complete the plant and much, much more. News 25’s Shelby Myers has the details.
More than $4 billion over its initial budget and over two years behind schedule, the Kemper power plant is still not in operation. It continues to be an issue of concern and controversy.
Today, The New York Times issued an article after reviewing thousands of documents and hours worth of legal recordings handed over to them by Brett Wingo, an engineer and whistle blower who was reportedly sued and later fired from the Southern Company, the plant’s owner.
This information details how over 30 current or former regulators, contractors, consultants or engineers who worked on the project, described how the plant’s owners constantly understated the project’s cost and it’s timetable, plus tried to conceal problems as they emerged.
The article goes on to say that Wingo alleges the company had broken federal law and engaged in corporate fraud.
Southern Company issued a rebuttal.
The following is a statement from Southern Company on the July 5 New York Times article regarding the Kemper County energy facility:
Southern Company is proudly inventing America’s – and the world’s – energy future through the development of the world’s most advanced coal plant, Mississippi Power’s Kemper County energy facility. The result of decades of robust, proprietary research and development, the Kemper project has garnered enormous support from energy leaders across the U.S. and around the world. And Mississippi Power is completing the project with an unwavering focus on safety and quality.
Rather than educate readers on the worldwide benefits of this cutting-edge, first-of-its-kind facility, today’s New York Times article on the Kemper project provides a negative recap of previously disclosed developments that have already been addressed. The only element of today’s story that is actually new to the public discussion is the content from the former employee’s secret recordings of private conversations with current company employees. In drawing from the recordings, the Times captured specific phrases from sometimes years-old conversations – without providing appropriate context – to achieve a pre-determined objective and tone.
In an apparent attempt to deliver a pre-conceived narrative, the article also fails to mention key facts communicated to the reporter that would have clearly illustrated the company’s commitment to completing the project the right way for the benefit of customers. For example, faced with challenges indicative of a first-of-its-kind project, Southern Company has taken charges totaling $2.5 billion, helping ensure the project will deliver the same value to Mississippi Power customers as initially intended.
Despite the company’s unequivocal belief that the Kemper project is the right project for Mississippi, history tells us that any undertaking this large is bound to have some detractors. While we have found that the plant’s supporters far outnumber its critics, we actively listen to all sides, taking questions regarding the successful completion of the project very seriously. Through our rigorous project oversight efforts –which include regular, detailed analysis by all levels of company leadership and state regulators – the company has investigated, addressed and publicly acknowledged every founded concern regarding the safe and successful completion of the project. It is important to note that the company has previously investigated concerns raised by former employee Brett Wingo, who serves as the primary source in the article, both through its internal employee concerns process and by engaging a third party. In addition to its internal investigation, the company sought outside counsel to conduct a separate investigation of concerns he reported to further ensure the integrity and reliability of its internal investigation findings. The investigations into Wingo’s concerns both reached the same conclusion – that his concerns were unsubstantiated and not otherwise supported by the facts. The company is also aware that Wingo has raised similar concerns with the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff and that, in 2015, the staff conducted an inquiry based on those concerns. Since the time the former employee first raised his concerns internally – and, subsequently, in more public forums – the company has continued to monitor and investigate his reports. There is nothing in his initial or repeated statements which has in any way changed the company’s conclusion that his concerns were unsupported.