Perry says he may not declare an electric grid emergency

Perry says he may not declare an electric grid emergency
© Greg Nash

Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryDon’t worry (too much) about Kavanaugh changing the Supreme Court Overnight Energy: Pruitt gone, but investigations remain | Interim EPA chief called Trump a 'bully' in 2016 | Court rules for greens in air pollution case Trump coal plan could lead to 1 pollution-related death for every 2 jobs: study MORE said Monday that he may not declare there is an emergency in the Northeast’s electric grid.

FirstEnergy Solutions, a power generating company, asked for such a declaration last month, saying that it plans to close its coal and nuclear power plants, which would devastate the PJM Interconnection grid that runs from Ohio to New Jersey and many other nearby states.

Perry said that while he sympathizes with the need to prevent coal and nuclear plants from closing, he might not endorse FirstEnergy’s plan.

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The relief FirstEnergy requested “may not be the way that we decide that is the most appropriate, the most efficient, way to address this. It is not the only way,” Perry said at a New York City event hosted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Nonetheless, the request for Perry to use his power under section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act and mandate higher electricity payments to coal and nuclear plants in the region is “an issue in front of [the Energy Department] that is being looked at as we speak,” he said.

FirstEnergy’s request has been criticized by free-market advocates, environmentalists and advocates for numerous competing electricity sources like wind, solar and natural gas, who say it’s not the federal government’s job to bail out uneconomic companies.

But Perry said coal and nuclear plant closings are a major problem.

“My responsibility is to make sure that when the demand is there for this country, whether it’s an economic demand, whether it’s a personal demand or whether it’s a national security demand, that when that event occurs, we have the power,” he said.

“Five years down the road, if we continued on the previous administration’s goal to put coal out of business, to basically remove nuclear plants from our grid, and the electricity goes out and the guy that was sitting in my seat shrugs and goes ‘eh.’ That is not acceptable. Sorry.”

Speaking in West Virginia last week, President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE acknowledged FirstEnergy’s petition, saying, “we’ll be looking at that.”

Last year, Perry asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to mandate higher payments to coal and nuclear plants in all competitive electricity markets. The commission, which is independent from the Energy Department, rejected Perry’s plan.