Trump's Coal, Nuke Push Pegged to Security Threats to Gas Pipes

Trump administration planning to command grid operators to buy coal from sagging plants

President Trump's mandate would force the DOE to implement two emergency-only provisions-the Federal Power Act and the Defense Production Act-to once again attempt to bail out coal-fired and nuclear power plants.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take emergency steps to keep at-risk coal and nuclear plants running, the White House announced.

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.

The White House-sponsored DoE memo reportedly states that "too many of these fuel-secure plants have retired prematurely and many more have recently announced retirement", while declaring that the replacement of coal and nuclear plants by natural gas and renewable power in the U.S. is not secure.

The EIA also reports that almost all power plants that retired between 2008 and 2017 were fossil fuel plants and that most plants that plan to close before 2020 use coal or natural gas.

The Energy Department would also establish a "Strategic Electric Generation Reserve".

"Murray, for instance, wants the DOE to approve an emergency order, under Section 202 (c) of the Federal Power Act, which allows the federal government to intervene in energy markets in times of electricity reliability emergencies, though it's only ever been used historically in times of war or sudden resource shortage". The plan calls for Perry to use the Federal Power Act and the Defence Production Act to temporarily delay retirements of coal and nuclear plants.

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Groups like the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity have told the Energy Department that retiring coal facilities could threaten the electrical grid.

The Energy Department would be relying partly on the Federal Power Act - the so-called Section 202 authority - that lets the administration order guaranteed profits for power plants that can store large amounts of fuel on site. This time, Perry is planning to resort to federal emergency measures typically employed during wartime or natural disasters, according to Bloomberg.

A number of other trade groups representing energy efficiency, electric storage, natural gas, oil, solar, wind and electricity consumers also chimed in to criticize the draft memo and its proposed actions. "I am encouraged by the president's actions to protect our nation from these plant closures and ensure coal power is available to address future weather, market, and cybersecurity challenges".

Calling the draft plan "unwarranted" and "ill-conceived", Tom Foley, senior vice president of policy and government affairs for the American Council on Renewable Energy, warns that "arbitrary market interventions deprive businesses of the certainty they need to invest in power plants of all types, harming not helping electric reliability". Numerous plants have operated far longer than anticipated when they were built.

As Trump's fossil-fuel energy mouthpiece, Perry earlier commissioned a study to identify regulatory causes for coal-plant closures, but no regulations were found; instead, cheap natural gas was observed to be responsible for widespread industry decline.

"Any federal intervention out there to order prospects to purchase electrical energy from particular energy vegetation could be damaging to the markets and due to this fact expensive to shoppers", that group PJM Interconnection stated in an announcement.

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