Trump orders Rick Perry to take 'immediate steps' to stop coal plant closures

Trump orders Rick Perry to take 'immediate steps' to stop coal plant closures
© Getty Images

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 has ordered 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 to take "immediate steps" to prevent the further closures of coal and nuclear power plants around the U.S., the White House said Friday.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that the president had ordered the Department of Energy to take the measures due to a national security interest in securing the national power grid's resilience.

ADVERTISEMENT

"President Trump has directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources, and looks forward to his recommendations," Sanders said Friday.

"President Trump believes in total energy independence and dominance, and that keeping America’s energy grid and infrastructure strong and secure protects our national security, public safety and economy from intentional attacks and natural disasters," Sanders added. "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."

The statement from the White House comes hours after Bloomberg News obtained a draft memo detailing an Energy Department plan to order grid operators to buy electricity from coal and nuclear plants that are at risk of retiring due to cheaper energy available from renewable energy sources and natural gas.

"Too many of these fuel-secure plants have retired prematurely and many more have recently announced retirement," the 41-page memo reads.

The Energy Department measure would also create a “Strategic Electric Generation Reserve," which would shore up the U.S.'s domestic energy reserves in case of an emergency.

The agency's planned intervention into the energy market would last for two years, allowing for a federal study of vulnerabilities in the U.S. energy delivery and power grid, the memo says.

Representatives of energy sources that compete with coal and nuclear, such as wind, solar and natural gas, slammed Trump's order and the draft memo Friday.
 
“The administration’s draft plan to provide government assistance to those coal and nuclear power plants that are struggling to be profitable under the guise of national security would be unprecedented and misguided,” said Todd Snitchler, director of market development at the American Petroleum Institute, which represents gas producers, as well as the oil industry, and which has supported much of Trump’s energy and environmental agenda.
 
“The reported proposal would be a misapplication of emergency powers, there’s certainly no credible justification to force American taxpayers to bail out uneconomic power plants,” said Amy Farrell, head of government affairs at the American Wind Energy Association.
 
Numerous coal and nuclear plants have closed or announced the intent to close in recent years, due mainly to economic factors such as competition from cheap natural gas. Environmental regulations have also played a significant role.
 
The Trump administration has been trying since shortly after Trump took office to bail out coal and nuclear plants, leading to charges that the president is merely working to boost politically favored industries.
 
Earlier this year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously rejected a plan by Perry to require electric utilities and their customers to pay higher rates to coal and nuclear plants and guarantee them a profit.
 
Since then, the Energy Department has considered granting a petition from FirstEnergy Solutions to require such payments solely in an area in the Northeast, or using the Defense Production Act to mandate buying coal and nuclear power, as the leaked DOE memo suggests.