Trump admin considers plan to bail out coal, nuclear plants

Rick Perry and Ryan Zinke at 2018 CPAC

In what could be an important lifeline for Colstrip and its coal-fired power plants, President Donald Trump ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry Friday to "take immediate steps" to prevent the future closures of coal and nuclear power plants around the nation.

"Emboldened by President Trump's promises to 'save the coal industry, ' conservatives who have long argued against subsidies for solar and wind power have a newfound desire for the federal government to pick winners in energy systems, as a growing number of coal plants become uneconomic and close down".

The Trump administration is preparing a plan that could require electric grid operators to keep coal and nuclear power plants open. 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.

"Cleaner, cheaper power is abundant, and new energy technologies like wind, solar, and other distributed energy make the grid safer from attack".

"Unfortunately, impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation's energy mix, and impacting the resilience of our power grid", Sanders said. Numerous plants have operated far longer than anticipated when they were built.

The Defense Production Act, adopted in 1950 at the start of the Korean War, allows the federal government to intervene in business to promote national security. (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.

According to Bloomberg, the move would signal an unprecedented intervention in the USA energy industry.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a major coal-mining state, on Friday praised Trump for carrying out what he said was his idea: "I am glad President Trump and his Administration are considering my idea to use the Defense Production Act to save coal-fired power plants with emissions controls and protect our national security", Manchin said.

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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".

Murray has been seeking emergency action to boost his industry since previous year 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.

"Earthjustice will continue to fight the Trump Administration's destructive and illegal coal bailouts every with every legal tool available".

"Energy Secretary Perry is being forced to issue another unnecessary and unprecedented emergency order to favor coal and nuclear over more economic electricity suppliers, including renewables".

McKinley said the closure of additional power plants will weaken America's national security.

Charles Jones, CEO of the Ohio-based utility FirstEnergy, said preserving coal and nuclear plants "is the right thing to do for the industry, the electric grid and our customers".

"There has been no change in our plan to cease coal-fired operations in 2020", PGE spokesman Steve Corson said Friday afternoon. Critics also suggested Trump has political motivations for propping up outmoded technologies, because coal company executives have been among his big financial backers.

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