Anti-Sustainability: Trump Orders DoE to Keep Fading US Coal Industry Alive

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President Donald Trump ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take immediate action to stem power plant closures in the name of national security, arguing that a decline in coal and nuclear electricity is putting the nation's grid at risk.

Impending retirements of coal-fired and nuclear power plants are harming the nation's electric grid and reducing its resilience, and the president wants immediate action "to stop the loss of these resources", Sanders said.

The president heralded the coal industry during his campaign and his presidency, and he's frequently talked about trying to bring coal jobs back.

Since campaigning for the White House, Trump has vowed to revive the ailing US coal industry.

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Perry, under the auspices of the Trump White House, then switched tactics by proposing a new rule to require energy buyers to pay extra fees to coal and nuclear plants as a means of supporting the declining industry, but that requirement was quickly shot down by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who noted insufficient evidence to approve the extra fees. After the Energy Department conducted a study of grid reliability past year, Perry proposed a rule that would have compensated coal and nuclear plants for their ability to store months' worth of fuel on site.

Over dozens of pages, the memo makes the case for action, arguing that the decommissioning of power plants must be managed for national security reasons and that federal intervention is necessary before the USA reaches a tipping point in the loss of essential, secure electric generation resources. And the Energy Department would be tapping the 68-year-old Defense Production Act, a Cold War-era statute once invoked by President Harry Truman to help the steel industry. The justification for using the Defense Production Act would be that keeping unprofitable power plants running is a matter of national security until the two-year vulnerability study is complete.

"We support all efforts to ensure the security of our nation's electric power supply, which is critical to the reliability of our electric power grids, to low-priced electricity and to our national defense", Murray said Friday in a statement.

"This prudent stop-gap measure" will allow coal and nuclear plants to remain open while the department takes further steps to secure the grid, the memo said.

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

"This action is essential in order to protect the resiliency and reliability of our nation's electric power grids", Murray said Friday in an email. The company issued a statement that its grid is reliable and federal intervention "would be damaging to the markets and therefore costly to consumers" by raising electricity prices.

"It's going to be tough to get a court to question DOE's factual finding - particularly if it relates to national defense", Peskoe said in an interview. The federal government has a lot of assets in the Pacific Northwest.

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