Entergy Corporation Louisiana substation

An Entergy Corporation Louisiana substation.

(The Center Square) — A bill that passed the Mississippi Senate this week is intended to level the playing field when it comes to building the state’s electricity transmission infrastructure, but could face a legal challenge.

Senate Bill 2341, authored by Senate Energy Committee Chairman Joel Carter, R-Gulfport, is a one-page bill that would require the construction of transmission infrastructure in the state involved in a regional transmission organization to be compliant with both federal and state regulations.

This would affect investor-owned Entergy, which also serves Arkansas, Louisiana and part of east Texas, and Cooperative Energy, which is a nonprofit electric power association. Both utilities are members of the regional transmission operator Midcontinent Independent System Operator.

Midcontinent manages the distribution of electricity among its members in 15 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba.

The bill is now in the hands of the House after passing the Senate by a 50-1 vote on Feb. 8. A motion to reconsider kept the bill from being transmitted to the House until it was tabled on Monday.

During the Senate Energy Committee meeting on Jan. 31, state Sen. Dennis DeBar, R-Leakesville, said two groups had approached to inform him the bill would create a monopoly for the state’s transmission infrastructure.

Carter answered that his bill simply forces third party contractors that do work on the state’s electric grid to abide by guidelines issued by the Mississippi Public Service Commission, the three-member elected body which regulates utilities in the state.

He said the bill creates a level playing field since out-of-state entities seeking to build transmission lines in the state at present only have to comply with federal regulations and not the state's Public Service Commission.

An amendment added to the bill allows projects already before the PSC, such as Pattern Energy’s Southern Spirit transmission project that would connect the Texas grid with Louisiana and Mississippi, to be exempt from the requirements of SB2341. Construction, if approved by the commission, would begin in 2025 with a completion date of 2028. 

The bill, if it is signed into law by Gov. Tate Reeves, could face a legal challenge after a similar law in Texas was overturned in August by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The decision in NextEra Energy v. Public Utility Commission of Texas struck down a Texas law that gave incumbent utility companies the right of first refusal when it came to building transmission infrastructure. Passage of the bill in 2019 halted a NextEra project to build transmission lines for ERCOT that connected with Midcontinent. NextEra sued on commerce clause grounds since the project connected multiple states.

Regional Editor

Steve Wilson has been an award-winning writer and editor for nearly 20 years at newspapers in Georgia, Florida and Mississippi and is a U.S. Coast Guard veteran and University of Alabama graduate.