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

04 June 2018

The draft memo laying out the directive would not give a certain quantity operators must spend however says it will likely be sufficient to maintain the services open for the following two years, saying that US nationwide safety "depends on a strong USA home industrial base, of which the coal, nuclear, and oil and pure fuel industries are vital strategic parts". "That ability to recover, known as the grid's resilience, in turn depends on the availability of robust and secure electric generation resources and their supportive supply chains".

Trump administration officials are making plans to order grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants in an effort to extend their life, a move that could represent an unprecedented intervention into US energy markets.

The drilling industry, renewable energy companies, and many grid operators reject the idea that coal and nuclear power plant closures are undermining US electricity reliability and resiliency, saying gas, solar and wind have proven dependable. Nonetheless, supporting the flagging coal industry was one of Trump's campaign promises, although the president's current energy secretary, former Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, has made few inroads in his attempts to convince Capitol Hill and the energy industry that coal-burning power sources should be kept alive. Joe Manchin (D-WV) urging the president to use federal emergency powers to prevent the closure of coal and nuclear power plants. Normally, that authority is used in natural disasters or other crises.

"Earthjustice will continue to fight the Trump Administration's destructive and illegal coal bailouts every with every legal tool available".

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On the other hand, U.S. Sen. "The security of our homeland is inextricably tied to the security of our energy supply. The Defense Production Act grants the president the authority to ensure that the nation's domestic industrial base is capable of providing the essential materials and resources needed to defend our nation and protect our sovereignty, and it recognizes energy production and critical infrastructure as strategic and crucial to that goal".

The Department of Energy proposal would require grid operators to purchase electricity from a designated list of coal and nuclear plants over the course of two years. It would substantially broaden the definition of an emergency under the Federal Power Act and allow the DOE or FERC "to invoke such powers in future cases where the underlying reason for the emergency is an economic one", said Kamaluddin. And on April 2, 2018, First Energy appealed for emergency help after a subsidiary containing ailing power plants filed for bankruptcy protection.

More will be revealed after the hearing on 1 June.

A leaked internal memo suggests the move would involve "drastic government intervention in America's energy markets", the New York Times reported.

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The newly elected Karnataka Chief Minister, H D Kumaraswami, has also communicated to the Prime Minister warning of the coal shortages being faced by three power plant in his state, which now have coal stocks to operate for 15 days.

"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", it added. John E. Shelk, EPSA's president and CEO, explains, "This proposed federal action is a bell that can not be called back once it is rung".

"Orderly power plant retirements do not constitute an emergency for our electric grid", said Amy Farrell, vice president of the American Wind Energy Association.

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