Trump orders Perry to take 'immediate steps' to stop coal plant closures

Gwen Vasquez
June 4, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump, who made saving mining jobs an earmark of his campaign, is pointing to natural gas's vulnerability to hackers as justification for bailing out struggling coal-fired and nuclear power plants. "President Trump has directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources, and looks forward to his recommendations".

Still, the White House issued a statement in response to news reports about the plan, saying the US electric grid is at risk because of coal and nuclear plant shutdowns - called "retirements" in the industry.

Over the two years in question, DoE officials would ostensibly research USA power grid network vulnerabilities, using the study as a justification to keep unprofitable and polluting power plants running as a matter of national security, according to Bloomberg.

Both the USA coal and nuclear power industries have been shrinking for years, under pressure from cheaper natural gas along with advances in solar and wind energy.

According to the draft memo, the Energy Department would exercise its emergency authority to order grid operators to give preference to plants "that have a secure on-site fuel supply" and which "are essential to support the Nation's defense facilities, critical energy infrastructure, and other critical infrastructure". (Read the Memo Here) According to the memo, the Energy Department is to instruct grid operators to purchase power from a list of designated plants.

The proposal argues for action, stating that the decommissioning of coal-fired power plants must be managed, citing national security reasons.

The draft memo asserts that "federal action is necessary to stop the further premature retirements of fuel-secure generation capacity" while DOE and other entities embark on further study of "national security needs and additional measures to safeguard the nation's electric grid and natural gas pipeline infrastructure from current threats".

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While many of President Trump's top donors advocate for the support of struggling coal-fired power plants, it is unclear as to whether or not Trump has signed off on the plan.

In January the Republican-led Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejected a different proposal from Perry that sought to pay coal and nuclear plants for their resiliency and reliability services.

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).

Also supporting the Trump administration's decision was Sen. Trump's affinity for coal and nuclear plants has had the effect of uniting the fastest growing sectors of the power industry - natural gas and renewables.

The Trump administration is moving to embrace two rarely used authorities under federal law to take the action, after weighing a broad array of strategies for preserving coal and nuclear power plants.

Earlier this year, east coast grid operator PJM, which serves 65 million customers, published an analysis of recently announced planned deactivations of certain nuclear plants and determined that there was no immediate threat to system reliability. In a statement on Friday, Manchin was crowing like a rooster in a hen house, praising Trump for using his idea.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has written a letter to the Prime Minister, seeking his intervention to ensure that CIL will offer additional railway rakes for the transportation of coal to thermal power plants in the Delhi region, as the Indian capital is facing acute shortage of power as a result of lower coal stock.

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