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Residents flood PSC with complaints about telemarketers

By By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Dec. 17, 2001
Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Nielsen Cochran said more residents complain to his office about telemarketers than they do about anything else.
So, he said, the state Public Service Commission will ask legislators in January to let the PSC regulate telemarketing calls a proposal similar to one that failed in the Legislature early this year.
The proposal would let residents ask the PSC to place their name on a "no-call list." Telemarketers would buy the list; then they could face a $5,000 fine for each call made to a name on the list.
But, he said, the fact that 23 states have passed their own laws to stop unwanted telemarketing calls including neighboring Tennessee shows the national "no-call list" is not working.
Commission responsibilities
Cochran's comments were made to The Meridian Star editorial board, where, he also talked about telemarketing and other issues such as Mississippi Power Co.'s rate increase and motor carrier regulations.
Cochran is one of three elected members of the PSC a body that regulates and supervises electric company power rates, for-hire motor transportation and telecommunications companies.
He represents the Central District, which stretches from the Louisiana to the Alabama borders and includes Lauderdale, Kemper, Neshoba and Newton counties.
Cochran told the editorial board that long, hot summers in 1998 and 1999 helped trigger a 2.23 percent rate increase for Mississippi Power customers. The increase takes effect Jan. 1.
The demand for electricity was so great in 1998 and 1999, Cochran said, that Mississippi Power was on the verge of calling their large users and shutting them down "in what we call rolling outages.'"
New power plants
Then came the request by Mississippi Power to build its two newest generating units at Plant Daniel in Jackson County. After hearings, the PSC granted permission for two reasons.
Cochran said the $400 million investment to build the new plants in Jackson County was a large percentage of the rate increase request.
Besides electricity, Cochran said, another concern is water supplies in Mississippi. Even though people take water for granted, he said, it likely will become a "very costly utility service."
Water service
Cochran said a recent report from a gubernatorial committee recommended that the PSC be more involved in water associations something the commission does not have today.
He said surface water resources in Mississippi are being depleted and he predicts water will one day be more expensive than electricity.
Motor transportation
Cochran said the PSC's motor carrier division is the least discussed division of any state agency.
The commission monitors federal highway safety standards, conducting safety inspections and hazardous materials checks on truckers. PSC enforcement officers also can check for drugs.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, routine checks by the division have increased with comprehensive checks for explosives and biologically hazardous materials.
Cochran said the 30-member unit has been on alert since that time and will remain so for quite a while. But to date, he said, nothing has been found that needed to be reported to higher authorities.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.

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