Mississippi Power has told its customers to expect a rate increase of up to 40 percent if a Mississippi Supreme Court ruling stands.

The court ruled last month that an 18 percent rate increase to pay for its Kemper Plant, which is costing billions of dollars more than first estimated, was improperly granted. The court ordered Mississippi Power to refund money collected under that rate increase. But, before that happens, the company plans to ask the court for a rehearing, a spokesman said.

It has until next week to file for that, said spokesman Jeff Shepard. He said he had no idea how long it would be before a final decision is made and if the ruling stands how long it would be before customers received refunds.

Hattiesburg businessman Thomas Blanton sued over the 18 percent increase. He says customers should not be forced to pay for what he calls a risky experiment in the plant, which is designed to turn lignite into a synthetic gas for fuel to produce electricity.

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