Science

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

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

The Trump administration reportedly has plans in the works to direct USA grid operators to purchase power from struggling coal and nuclear facilities - a move immediately condemned by several energy industry associations and clean energy groups. After the Energy Department conducted a reliability study past year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry proposed a rule that would have compensated coal and nuclear plants for their ability to store months' worth of fuel on site.

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

The Trump Administration has determined coal-fired are vital to the protection of the nation's energy grid, according to a statement released Friday by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Essentially, that would force grid operators to buy coal or nuclear power even if other options like natural gas or renewable sources are cheaper.

According to the draft memo, the Energy Department would exercise its emergency authority to order grid operators to give preference to plants "that have a secure on-site fuel supply" and which "are essential to support the Nation's defense facilities, critical energy infrastructure, and other critical infrastructure".

Both Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., have been encouraging Trump to use his power under the Defense Production Act and the Federal Power Act to protect power plants already investing in emissions control. The lifetime of newer units 3 and 4 is a bit murkier, but one owner, Puget Sound Energy, has identified 2027 as the date it would shed its share of the plant.

The action by the Energy Department would represent an unprecedented intervention into USA energy markets.

Trump administration officials who advocate taking action say they want to preserve nuclear and coal-fired plants that have fuel on site and provide reliable, always-on power capable of snapping back after intense storms and emergencies.

There is no environmental argument for keeping open coal plants, which are the most carbon-intensive form of power.




The Trump administration did not immediately endorse the specific actions laid out in the memo, whose suggested approach that would be the most aggressive yet tabled by Perry's Energy Department in its bid to stem the decline of the nation's ageing fleet of coal-fired plants.

Federal action is necessary to stop the further premature retirements of fuel-secure generation capacity.

Some coal and power companies have lobbied the administration to invoke the measure, known as a 202 (c), and Trump has picked up on the term, telling coal miners on a recent trip to West Virginia that "we'll be looking at that 202".

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wears a coal miner's hat whereas addressing his supporters throughout a rally on the Charleston Civic Heart on Could 5, 2016 in Charleston, WVa.

Such a statement has been contradicted by several power grid operators, including PJM, one of the largest independent system operators in the country.

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".

"Arbitrary market interventions of this sort have no place in the electricity structure that has kept American electric power reliable and affordable", Wetstone says.

Coal company CEO Robert Murray of Murray Energy [MUYEY.UL], also called for Perry to use emergency powers to save at-risk coal plants.


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