Editorial Roundup: Mississippi

Greenwood Commonwealth. Nov. 20, 2021.

Editorial: Entergy’s Big Bet On Renewables

It doesn’t seem all that long ago when Entergy had grand plans for nuclear power. But a recent announcement by the utility company shows how much things have changed: It is now all-in on renewable energy, especially solar power.

Entergy’s Mississippi subsidiary announced that it’s making its largest-ever commitment to renewable resources. It will replace aging plants that use natural gas to produce electricity with 1,000 megawatts of energy from renewable sources over the next five years. It is already partnering with the U.S. subsidiary of a Canadian company to construct a 100-megawatt solar facility in Sunflower County.

Although Entergy currently only gets 1% of its energy from renewables, it is projecting that figure will rise to 17% in three years and 33% in five. That would be a huge switch away from the company’s current reliance on natural gas for the majority of its electricity production.

At that rate, Entergy says it would be the fastest-growing renewable energy utility in Mississippi — perhaps not a high measure of green success — and one of the fastest-growing in the country, which is much more impressive.

Equally impressive, and a bit surprising, is the words of support from state leaders, including Gov. Tate Reeves and all three elected members of the Public Service Commission.

Neither the company nor its political advocates are a bunch of tree-huggers. Instead, they’re framing Entergy’s plans as an important economic development tool.

Entergy is calling its plans the EDGE, for Economic Development with Green Energy, and believes it will help the state recruit industries while giving its electricity customers a hedge against rising natural gas prices.

The governor said the company’s plans will help Mississippi become energy independent, and will put the state in a better position to recruit jobs and economic growth.

Entergy Mississippi President and CEO Haley Fisackerly said renewable power is as important to large companies as a state’s tax and incentive structure, site availability and labor force.

“Adding more renewable energy will put Mississippi communities in a better position for industrial recruitment, while also diversifying our power generation portfolio at a time of rising natural gas prices,” he said.

Critics of renewable energy question its ability to provide consistent electricity, and whether it’s wise to move away rapidly from the fossil fuels that have proven so reliable for decades.

They have a point. Sometimes it’s cloudy, and sometimes the wind doesn’t blow. This puts limits on solar energy and wind power.

Entergy Mississippi’s plans, however, are a clear bet that continuing technological improvements and a wider acceptance of renewable energy will overcome any such barriers. We’ll know who’s right in five years, if and when one-third of the company’s electricity is coming from renewable sources.

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The (Columbus) Dispatch. Nov. 17, 2021.

Editorial: With some Lowndes supes, restraint in short supply

There is an old saying that goes, “In this world, there is nothing certain but death and taxes.”

Anyone who has regularly attended meetings of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors would add another certainty: “A shouting match between Harry Sanders and Leroy Brooks.”

For more than 20 years now, the county’s two longest serving — and most outspoken — supervisors have clashed at intervals, most often to the benefit of no one and certainly not to the residents each represent.

Monday, they were at it again, this time over a pay raise for the sheriff and an appointment to the Lowndes County Industrial Development Authority board.

We don’t object to board members having differences of opinions, nor do we find any fault when supervisors vigorously make their points. That can be a healthy process.

But when those disputes deteriorate to the point of making a mockery of the process, disrupting the decorum we expect our elected leaders to hold themselves to and cloud policy decisions with personal attacks, it has gone far beyond the give-and-take, win some/lose some nature of policy-making.

More often than not, when these Harry vs. Leroy confrontations flare up, we are inclined to let them pass unnoted. If calling them out for their behavior would have an effect, the kind of scene that occurred Monday would have long since ended.

Generally, when Harry and Leroy clash, the blame can be equally distributed. But even when one supervisor’s words or behavior are more egregiously wrong, the other has exacerbated rather than diffused the situation. They almost seem to enjoy pushing each other’s buttons, often for no apparent reason.

But Monday, the lion’s share of the criticism belonged to Brooks. It’s probably been a long time coming.

Since July 2020, when Sanders infamously called Black citizens historically dependent during a debate over removing the Confederate monument, Brooks has refused to sit at the board table during supervisors meetings, fulfilling a vow never to sit at the board table as long as Sanders remained on the board.

Although Sanders stepped down as board president in the wake of withering criticism, he did not resign, something Brooks, as well as many other citizens and community leaders demanded.

During meetings, Brooks has floated around the board room, sometimes sitting as far away from the board table as possible and more recently, sitting in a seat along the wall behind board president Trip Hairston. He has cited COVID concerns as part of the reason he “floats.”

Concerning his issues with Sanders’ year-and-a-half old comments, though, we feel Brooks has made his point.

On Monday, as the emotions began to spill over, Brooks quickly emerged from his seat and approached the table. Sheriff Eddie Hawkins rose, most likely to step between Brooks and Sanders, who remained seated at the board table.

Brooks loudly asked Hawkins if he intended to arrest him, before returning to his self-imposed exile away from the board table.

So many times, politicians tell us they are going to “fight” for their constituents. Voters prefer candidates that will “fight” for them.

But we would be horrified if either the politician or the voters mean it literally.

We expect our elected leaders to behave themselves with dignity and, sometimes, restraint.

The voters of District 5 that Brooks represents literally deserve a seat at the table, not in the back of the room.

While we understand the principle that not sitting at the table represents, we believe that point has been made and made effectively.

Our expectations for the conduct of Sanders and Brooks have decreased over the years.

But we do not think it too much to ask that they sit at the table — and remain seated.

That should not be too much to ask.

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Vicksburg Post. Nov. 18, 2021.

Editorial: Yazoo Pumps Project needs more than empty promises

The federal government continued its pattern of failing the people of the South Mississippi Delta on Wednesday.

It seems as though the Environmental Protection Agency is more concerned with anti-Trump rhetoric and ideals than the livelihood of Mississippians who have long been crying out for help. Help and relief, they say, from a problem the government manufactured in the first place.

We’re no strangers to being forgotten on the national stage. Mississippi, the “landmass” between Louisiana and Alabama, has been a punchline far too often. And the ones suffering most are in the Delta. The population affected by the continuous catastrophic flooding of the Yazoo Backwater area consists of hundreds of households, 62 percent of which are people of color, 28 percent living below the poverty line.

It seems on the surface that this decision was aided by an Aug. 30 letter by U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who represents the Second Congressional District, to the EPA. Thompson requested a probe into the Trump Administration’s handling of the decision, citing “serious issues” and claiming that top scientists were ignored in the 2020 approval of the project.

A Democrat and career politician, Thompson knows where his bread is buttered. On many visits to Vicksburg and the surrounding area, he’s been reported as saying, “I never get Vicksburg’s votes,” or similar statements to that effect. Perhaps if Thompson cared as much about serving his constituents as he does about hating former President Donald Trump, he’d get a few more votes in Warren County.

He’s also been recorded stating his support for the pumps project, at least on the local stage, when it behooved him.

Given what’s become a pattern of prioritizing his own interests and advancement over the wellbeing and livelihood of his constituents in our area, Thompson’s failure to support the Yazoo Backwater Pumps Project when it really mattered will come at a grave price. It might not hurt him in the long run, but it will most definitely harm the people and the resources in the South Mississippi Delta.

Since 2008, floods in the Yazoo Backwater area have caused more than $380 million in damage to homes, crops, roads and natural resources. Since the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed the pump project in 2008, the area’s preventable flood damage losses to agriculture have cost over $152,000,000 more than the cost of the pumps.

Since it appears the facts and figures don’t matter to the Biden Administration in this instance, let’s look at the human toll. Approximately 700 homes in the South Mississippi Delta were lost in the 2019 Backwater Flood — 94 percent of which were minority-occupied.

Those are people forced to flee their homes, forced to find a new way of life and likely, forced to depend further on a government they distrust immensely. The majority of these 700 homes were left uninhabitable, with what remains rotting away.

It’s clear that those in power have never stared in the face of a farmer whose crops were destroyed by these preventable floods, watched law enforcement officers set out on search-and-rescue missions to find loved ones, helped a pastor place sandbags around his church in vain or watched helplessly as their home was overtaken by unmerciful waters.

They’ve also never seen these folks’ resiliency, the tenacity with which they hang their “Finish the Pumps” banners and lobby to those who will listen. They’ve never seen the tears of joy each time they return to their homes, rebuild and start over, year after year. These are people who rebel against the rising waters, people who are full of hope that one day if they work hard enough, the pumps project will be completed. They’re loud and proud and they’re not giving up yet.

The time for empty promises from our elected leaders is over. Words without actions mean nothing to the people of the South Mississippi Delta.

Washington, D.C. might not care about the Yazoo Backwater area. Our own representative might not care about it. But we, the people, sure do, and we demand they do the right thing and finish the pumps.

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Greenwood Commonwealth. Nov. 20, 2021.

Editorial: Worse Than Death

Before his execution this past week, David Neal Cox had two messages he wanted to deliver, his attorneys said.

One, that he loved his children, even though he was responsible for brutally killing their mother. Second, that the inhumane conditions he endured at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman made it easy for him to stop fighting his execution.

However one feels about the death penalty, or about whether this particular murderer’s crimes deserved the ultimate punishment, as a society we should not be comfortable with a penal institution that makes death seem preferable to living there.

END