Trump orders 'immediate steps' to boost coal, nuclear plants

Cesar Mills
June 4, 2018

Sanders said Trump had ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to prepare "immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources".

Trump campaigned on the promise that he would revive the coal industry.

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

In a draft memo obtained by Bloomberg News, the Department of Energy may order grid operators to buy electricity from coal and nuclear plants that are at risk of shuttering due to the increased use of cheaper natural gas and renewable electricity sources.

They noted that the coal and nuclear power plants that would benefit have failed to compete against natural gas, solar and wind.

According to a report from Bloomberg, at a meeting today of the White House National Security Council, a 41-page draft memo was circulated that outlines the need for the US grid to be "resilient and secure".

NGSA President and CEO Dena Wiggins said "this misguided attempt to artificially resuscitate a specific set of aging and uneconomic power plants will do far more harm than good", including raising costs and undermining competitive power markets.

The government last invoked the Defense Production Act to address the California energy crisis in early 2001, ordering natural gas sellers to prioritize contracts to sell supplies to utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

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Details of the memo, dated May 29 and circulated ahead of a National Security Council meeting on the subject on Friday, were first reported by Bloomberg News late on Thursday. According to Bloomberg, an unlikely coalition of proponents for both these industries told Perry that they don't see any emergency that would rationalize the DOE taking these extreme steps because "power plant retirements are a normal, healthy feature of electricity markets".

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.

Over dozens of pages, the memo makes the case for action, arguing that the decommissioning of power plants must be managed for national security reasons and that federal intervention is necessary before the US reaches a tipping point in the loss of essential, secure electric generation resources.

But on Friday, the White House said it was working on a new plan.

"Orderly power plant retirements do not constitute an emergency for our electric grid", said Amy Farrell, vice president of the American Wind Energy Association.

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.

The proposal could have a big impact on PJM Interconnection, the country's largest electric grid, which covers Pennsylvania and much of the mid-Atlantic.

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. Its owner, Bob Murray, is a Trump backer who has personally lobbied Rick Perry to help the coal industry.

Other reports by GizPress

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