"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", White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement about the measure.
Under a preliminary plan, first reported by Bloomberg Friday, the Energy Department could use its emergency power under two federal laws to require utilities to buy some of their power from coal and nuclear-powered plants that are threatened with closure. The justification for using the Defense Production Act would be that keeping unprofitable power plants running is a matter of national security until the two-year vulnerability study is complete.
The memo added that "federal action is necessary to stop the further premature retirements of fuel-secure generation capacity". Under a 2010 agreement, Portland General Electric plans to shut Oregon's only coal-fired power plant in Boardman in 2020. 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".
During that time, the DOE would conduct a study of vulnerabilities in the United States power grid system.
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The Trump administration could invoke two seldom-used laws to save faltering coal and nuclear plants, according to a Bloomberg News report.
In exploiting the 1950 Defense Production Act - an obscure Korean War-era energy procurement statute meant to streamline the war effort against Communism, particularly against China - Trump is looking for new ways to keep coal and nuclear power afloat in the USA, even as sustainable and ever-cheaper power generation in the country, including wind and solar, has risen sharply. In late March, FirstEnergy's (FE.N) FirstEnergy Solutions [FE.UL] unit - which runs coal and nuclear power units - called on the USA energy secretary to use the emergency powers to lift the sectors. The move would be one of the most direct efforts by Trump to make good on campaign promises to revive the nation's shrinking coal industry.
Depending on the approach taken by the Trump administration, propping up coal and nuclear plants could cost the taxpayers anywhere from $311 million to $11.8 billion per year.
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"This is an outrageous ploy to force American taxpayers to bail out coal and nuclear executives who have made bad decisions by investing in dirty and unsafe energy resources, and it will be soundly defeated both in the courts and in the court of public opinion".
Coal stocks rose on news of the draft plan.
A major grid operator, PJM Interconnection, said in a statement that the power system is more reliable than ever and federal intervention isn't needed.
"Arbitrary market interventions of this sort have no place in the electricity structure that has kept American electric power reliable and affordable", Wetstone says. The policy would coerce the owners of power grids across the nation to purchase electricity from coal and nuclear plants.
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"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". Its owner, Bob Murray, is a Trump backer who has personally lobbied Rick Perry to help the coal industry.