Energy agency rejects Trump bid to boost coal, nuclear…

Pauline Gross
January 11, 2018

Trade groups like the American Council on Renewable Energy, the American Petroleum Institute, the Electric Power Supply Association and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America offered a joint statement endorsing the commission's decision not to adopt Perry's plan, which many free-market advocates viewed as an assault on the balance of competitive power markets that have been moving away from coal-fired electricity in favor of power generated with cheaper natural gas, as well as wind and solar farms.

All five FERC commissioners approved the order.

Perry put forward a proposal in September which required regional power transmission operators to establish a system for purchasing energy and recovering costs for facilities that store a 90-day fuel supply on site.

Perry's proposal was made in the name of electric grid resilience. "The FERC correctly found that the Department of Energy's proposal violated the basic requirements of the Federal Power Act". "There is no evidence in the record to suggest that temporarily delaying the retirement of uncompetitive coal and nuclear generators would meaningfully improve the resilience of the grid". But in the past decade, US domestic oil production has soared from 5 million to 9.4 million barrels per day while the price dropped from $130 to below $60 per barrel.

"Corey Lewandowski understands FERC and the rule of law like Rick Perry understands energy markets and fair competition: not at all", Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, told ThinkProgress via email in response to Lewandowski's claim. And critics said that it would have largely helped a handful of coal and nuclear companies, including the utility FirstEnergy and coal-mining firm Murray Energy, while raising rates for consumers.

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"The goals of this proceeding are to develop a common understanding among the Commission, industry and others of what resilience of the bulk power system means and requires; to understand how each regional transmission organization and independent system operator assesses resilience in its geographic footprint; and to use this information to evaluate whether additional Commission action regarding resilience is appropriate". As one example, he noted last week's forced shutdown of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in MA due to a power line that failed during extreme cold weather.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a United Nations special envoy on climate change, said the FERC decision was a "victory for consumers, the free market and clean air".

A spokesman for Murray Energy declined to comment Monday. Cheryl LaFleur, a Democrat, said that "even had a resilience issue been demonstrated, I have serious concerns about the nature of the proposed remedy, which would address the issue not through market rules but through out-of-market payments to certain designated resources".

The commission said it would begin a new process to study whether fewer nuclear and coal plants pose risks to "grid resilience" which it defined as "the ability to withstand and reduce the magnitude and/or duration of disruptive events". Secretary Perry's proposal was nothing more than a massive bailout for the coal and nuclear industries.

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