Coal mogul: Trump should fire energy officials for rejecting Perry plan

Coal mogul: Trump should fire energy officials for rejecting Perry plan
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The CEO of the nation’s largest privately held coal mining company says President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE should fire four of the five commissioners who rejected Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: Mueller report reveals Russian efforts to sow division over coal jobs | NYC passes sweeping climate bill likened to 'Green New Deal' | EPA official says agency may ban asbestos | Energy Dept. denies Perry planning exit The Hill's 12:30 Report: Inside the Mueller report The very early, boring Democratic primary: Biden v. Bernie MORE’s plan to help coal and nuclear power plants. 

Robert Murray, head of Murray Energy Corp., said the members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), an independent agency, “defaulted” on their duties by rebuffing the plan to stop coal and nuclear plants from closing. Supporters said the reliability of the electric grid was at stake.

“I believe that the Trump administration, with the exception of Neil ChatterjeeIndranil (Neil) ChatterjeeOvernight Energy: Natural gas export project gets green light | Ocasio-Cortez says climate fight needs to address farming | Top EPA enforcement official to testify Regulators approve Louisiana natural gas export terminal GOP commissioner on federal energy panel dies MORE, picked three bad appointees for FERC. And they should all be fired,” Murray told The Hill on Tuesday.

Murray is an outspoken advocate for coal. He accused former President Obama of being the “nation’s greatest destroyer” and said last year that Obama should be charged criminally for actions toward the coal industry.

He’s also a close ally of Trump, having met with him on multiple occasions to push for pro-coal policies.

Trump nominated all of the FERC commissioners, except Democrat Cheryl LaFleur, last year, and the Senate confirmed them.

Murray said LaFleur and fellow Democrat Richard Glick opposed Perry’s proposal because they oppose coal, but Republicans Kevin McIntyreKevin J. McIntyreGOP commissioner on federal energy panel dies Senate should reject Trump’s radical nominee to key energy panel Overnight Energy: Chief energy regulator vows to steer clear of political fights | Zinke was referred to DOJ shortly before watchdog controversy | Groups threaten to sue EPA over paint stripper MORE and Rob Powelson “did not follow what should have been done in this case.” 

FERC on Monday declared that Perry’s proposal could not be legally implemented because it didn’t identify problems with current electricity policies that warrant action under the Federal Power Act. 

Perry wanted electric grid operators to pay coal and nuclear plants more for their power than other sources, likely increasing electricity costs, on the grounds that the power they provide is less likely to be interrupted than other sources.

Chatterjee, a Kentucky native who used to work for Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Mueller report is a deterrent to government service Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age MORE (R-Ky.), has been outspoken as an advocate of taking some kind of action to save coal and nuclear plants from closing.

Murray said Chatterjee “apparently was overwhelmed by the other four.” 

Since FERC is an independent agency, it is difficult for Trump to remove any commissioners, except in cases like malfeasance or neglect of duty. 

Murray predicted companies that run coal plants would start announcing closures in the coming days.

“I believe that you’re going to see action from some utilities relative to decommissioning nuclear and coal-fired plants. We were trying to stave that off,” he said.

Depending on what utilities do, Murray said he might push Perry to take other action on the matter, like issue emergency orders to keep certain coal plants running.

In an interview with The Hill, Chatterjee declined to comment on Murray’s call to fire his colleagues. Staff for the other commissioners did not respond to requests for comment.

Chatterjee said he was pleased with FERC’s conclusion, in which it is directing electric grid operators to provide a bevy of information on resilience issues within 90 days, at which point FERC might take more action. 

But he will keep pushing for the agency to work on the issue of resilience. He told The Hill that he wanted FERC to direct grid operators to either take interim action to issue higher payments to coal and nuclear plants or “show cause” why they should not — an action known as a “show cause” order.

“Even though I was satisfied with the underlying order and the way we went, I just felt like, as a matter of principal, it was a justified approach, and I wanted to lay it out,” Chatterjee said.

“But I don’t want that to distract from the underlying order, which will continue to explore this question and most importantly, do it in a truncated timeframe so that it’s not going to linger on forever,” he said. “My colleagues and I hopefully, after 90 days, will have a robust record to dig into and we’ll evaluate how to proceed from there.”

Chatterjee agreed with his colleagues that Perry’s specific proposal would not have passed legal muster. 

“I also agree with my colleagues … that the record was not sufficient to adopt the [plan] as proposed,” he said.