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Trump Orders a Lifeline for Struggling Coal and Nuclear Plants

Trump Orders a Lifeline for Struggling Coal and Nuclear Plants

Watchdog clears Perry's use of military, charter flights MORE to take "immediate steps" to prevent the further closures of coal energy plants around the US, the White House said Friday.

The plan would exempt power plants from obeying a host of environmental laws and spend billions to keep coal-fired plants open. At the same time, hackers from criminal groups and hostile regimes are growing increasingly sophisticated in how they target weak spots.

The statement from the White House comes hours after Bloomberg obtained a draft memo detailing a DOE 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.

"The evolving risk associated with mitigating cyber and physical security challenges is one of the most pressing issues for the sector", the Energy Department said in the draft memo.

The idea of declaring an emergency under the Defense Production Act of 1950 (used by President Harry Truman for the steel industry) and section 202 of the Federal Power Act has been promoted by the chief executives of the coal mining firm Murray Energy and OH utility First Energy, both of whom have contributed heavily to President Trump's political activities. 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.

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Over the two years in question, DoE officials would ostensibly research United States 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. "Any federal intervention in the market to order customers to buy electricity from specific power plants would be damaging to the markets and therefore costly to consumers". "If Trump chooses to bail out these failing coal plants, he'll be forcing Americans to pay for dirty energy that pollutes our environment and makes people sick".

But federal energy regulators have rejected that argument and turned down a proposal late previous year from Perry to subsidize nuclear and coal plants for providing "resilience" to the grid. Since then, the Trump administration has been studying other options.

Perry in September asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to consider "guaranteeing financial returns" for power plants able to "stockpile" 90 days worth of fuel on site. A FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary requested immediate intervention from Perry's agency in late March.

Representatives of FirstEnergy did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment. That authority has generally been reserved for potentially widespread blackouts and disruptions.

Michael Panfil, director of federal energy policy for the Environmental Defense Fund, called Trump's directive "an unprecedented, illegal government handout" to the coal and nuclear industries and vowed to fight the order in court.


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