Trump throws ailing U.S. coal, nuke plants a lifeline, triggers backlash

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Similarly, last year, Rick Perry, secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), formally proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission take "swift action to address threats to U.S. electrical grid resiliency" - a move that was opposed by many clean energy groups that claimed the request favored coal and nuclear generation.

"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".

The Trump administration reportedly has plans in the works to direct US grid operators to purchase power from struggling coal and nuclear facilities - a move immediately condemned by several energy industry associations and clean energy groups.

"I am glad President Trump and his Administration are considering my idea to use the Defense Production Act to save coal-fired power plants with emissions controls and protect our national security", Senator Manchin said.

The draft memo asserts that "federal action is necessary to stop the further premature retirements of fuel-secure generation capacity" while DOE and other entities embark on further study of "national security needs and additional measures to safeguard the nation's electric grid and natural gas pipeline infrastructure from current threats".

The Energy Department would also establish a "Strategic Electric Generation Reserve".

Over the two years in question, DoE officials would ostensibly research U.S. power grid network vulnerabilities, using the study as a justification to keep unprofitable and polluting power plants running as a matter of national security, according to Bloomberg.

While administration officials are still deciding on their final strategy - and may yet decide against aggressive action - the memo represents the Energy Department's latest, most fully developed plan to intervene on behalf of coal and nuclear power plants, pitched to the president's top security advisers.

"Such powers have been invoked in very limited instances", according to Rabeha Kamaluddin, energy lawyer with Dorsey & Whitney, "and in those instances, "emergencies" have pertained to natural disasters, hurricanes, and major blackouts; events that hit at the core of grid reliability and power supply".

Essentially, that would force grid operators to buy coal or nuclear power even if other options like natural gas or renewable sources are cheaper.

PJM Interconnection, for example, runs the Mid-Atlantic electric grid that serves 65 million people, the Times reported.

"Emboldened by President Trump's promises to 'save the coal industry, ' conservatives who have long argued against subsidies for solar and wind power have a newfound desire for the federal government to pick winners in energy systems, as a growing number of coal plants become uneconomic and close down". The federal government has a lot of assets in the Pacific Northwest.

But on Friday, the White House said it was working on a new plan.

In August 2017, Murray sent the White House a letter spelling out his industry's woes and complaining that his pleas had not yet been answered by the Trump administration.

Colstrip's two oldest units, 1 and 2, are slated to shut down by 2022 as part of a settlement agreement between the plant's owners and utility regulators in Washington state, where Colstrip sells most of its power. 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.