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Miss. wants suit against Entergy in state court

Jack Elliott Jr., Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is asking a federal judge to return the state's lawsuit against Entergy Mississippi to Hinds County Chancery Court.

Hood filed suit against the power company December 2008, claiming it overcharged customers by buying electricity from affiliates at a higher rate than on the open market, then passing the inflated costs along to consumers.

Entergy has denied the allegations.

Company officials say regulatory agencies are the proper groups to decide the issue. Entergy requested the move of the state's lawsuit from state court to federal court.

"Our position is regardless of what court this case is heard in we are confident that our practices have been fair to customers and we're optimistic that will be the court's finding," Entergy spokeswoman Mara Hartmann said Thursday.

In 2012, U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate denied Hood's motion to have the case heard in state court, ruling that federal court was the proper forum for the lawsuit.

Hood wants Wingate to send the case back to Hinds County.

The attorney general said the landscape has changed with a ruling this week by the U.S. Supreme Court that lawsuits brought by attorneys general to enforce their states' laws should be heard in state court. The ruling came in a different case filed by Hood.

"This is a state issue and should be addressed in state court. We think it only fair, given this recent ruling clarifying the point, that we ask the (federal) court to reconsider the remand denial," Hood said.

Hood's office has filed a motion asking Wingate to change his mind and return the case to state court in light of the Supreme Court's ruling.

Hartmann said Entergy has undergone 10 audits by independent auditing firms hired by the Public Service Commission since Hood filed the lawsuit in 2008.

"Those audits have each come back with the conclusion that we conduct business fairly and appropriately. In our view, the attorney general should be commending our practices not litigating them," Hartmann said.

Entergy Mississippi, a subsidiary of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., provides electricity to more than 433,000 customers in 45 Mississippi counties. Entergy Corp. delivers electricity to 2.7 million customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.