Published: Mon, June 04, 2018
Research | By Derrick Holloway

Trump throws ailing U.S. coal, nuke plants a lifeline, triggers backlash

Trump throws ailing U.S. coal, nuke plants a lifeline, triggers backlash

"In particular, resources that have a secure on-site fuel supply, including nuclear and coal-fired power plants, as well as oil-fired and dual-fuel units with adequate storage, are essential to support the nation's defense facilities, critical energy infrastructure, and other critical infrastructure".

The White House billed the effort as a way to shore up national energy security, but the announcement triggered swift backlash from an unusual alliance of drillers, renewable energy producers and environmentalists who called it an unfair attempt to prop up non-competitive industries. But a draft memo circulated earlier this week indicates the administration might order electric grid operators to buy their energy from struggling coal and nuclear plants.

"In October 2017, I commended U.S. Energy Department Secretary Rick Perry and encouraged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to seriously consider the benefits of a diverse energy grid and the importance of reliable, fuel-secure sources of electricity when considering Secretary Perry's directive".

The plan would exempt power plants from obeying a host of environmental laws and spend billions to keep coal-fired plants open.

Some analysts have asserted that there is an environmental case for keeping the nation's ailing nuclear plants open, since, if they closed, their carbon-free electricity would most likely be replaced by natural gas and emissions would rise. One impartial group that manages the electrical energy grid that serves greater than 65 million individuals stated that it might be unhealthy for shoppers if the federal authorities intervenes out there. "The sad irony is that such steps deprive businesses of the certainty needed to make much-needed investments in power generation - undermining the reliability of America's electricity infrastructure, which is the very concern this ill-conceived measure claims to address".

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On June 1, 2018, President Trump directed Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry to provide a new unjustified and illegal handout to coal executives.

Perry confirmed during congressional testimony last month that DOE was weighing its options for aiding coal and nuclear plants for national security purposes, including reviews of the DPA and FPA Section 202 (c).

But on Friday, the White House said it was working on a new plan. This intervention would last for two years, allowing time for a federal study of vulnerabilities in the US energy delivery and grid system.

Murray has been seeking emergency action to boost his industry since a year ago and has met with Trump to argue that federal help was needed to avert thousands of layoffs and maintain the reliability of the electric grid up and down the East Coast.

"This is an outrageous ploy to force American taxpayers to bail out coal and nuclear executives who have made bad decisions by investing in dirty and unsafe energy resources, and it will be soundly defeated both in the courts and in the court of public opinion".

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"Any federal intervention in the market to order customers to buy electricity from specific power plants would be damaging to the markets and therefore costly to consumers", it added.

"Arbitrary market interventions of this sort have no place in the electricity structure that has kept American electric power reliable and affordable", Wetstone says.

The move would be unprecedented because the plants in question are at risk of closing down due to increased competition from abundant natural gas and renewable energy sources.

Coal company CEO Robert Murray of Murray Energy [MUYEY.UL], also called for Perry to use emergency powers to save at-risk coal plants.

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