Energy & Environment

Energy regulator seeks delay in considering plan to boost coal, nuclear plants

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The head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is seeking a 30-day extension in the agency’s timeline to consider a proposal to prop up coal and nuclear power plants.

FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre sent the request late Thursday to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who in late September asked FERC to implement the policy within a two-month timeline.

McIntyre’s request came hours after he was sworn in as a commissioner and four days before the deadline Perry imposed.

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McIntyre’s letter cited the facts that FERC got two new commissioners in the last two weeks and it received more than 1,500 comments — an unprecedented volume — on Perry’s proposal.

“The proposed extension is critical to afford adequate time for the new commissioners to consider the voluminous record and engage fully in deliberations,” McIntyre wrote.

An Energy Department official said it had received the letter and would review it. Perry is currently traveling in the Middle East.

As an independent agency, FERC has wide latitude in how it conducts business and it’s unclear whether it requires Perry’s permission to delay considerations.

Under Perry’s plan, electric grid operators in some areas would be required to pay coal and nuclear plants for the full costs of generating power, plus a reasonable profit, even if competing power sources made lower bids.

Perry wrote the plan in order to save uneconomic coal and nuclear plants from closing, which he said threatens electric grid resilience.

He argued that the 60-day timeline is necessary because plants are closing so frequently.

Interests representing natural gas, wind and solar; free-market advocates; environmentalists; major energy consumers and others have united against the plan that they say goes against energy market principles.

Neil Chatterjee, another FERC commissioner, has been an outspoken supporter of taking some sort of action to prop up coal and nuclear plants.

Chatterjee, a Kentucky native and former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), was FERC’s interim chairman until Thursday. He had planned to move ahead on Perry’s timeline and have the commissioners make a decision on the plan by the Monday deadline.

Tags Coal Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Mitch McConnell Nuclear power Rick Perry

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