Trump-appointed regulators reject plan to rescue coal and nuclear plants

Trump-appointed regulators reject plan to rescue coal and nuclear plants

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously rejected a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would have propped up nuclear and coal power plants struggling in competitive electricity markets.

The independent five-member commission includes four people appointed by President Trump, three of them Republicans. Its decision is binding.

At the same time, the commission said it shared Perry’s stated goal of strengthening the “resilience” of the electricity grid and directed regional transmission operators to provide information to help the commission examine the matter “holistically.” The operators have 60 days to submit materials. At that time, the agency can issue another order.

Perry’s proposal favored power plants able to store a 90-day fuel supply on site, unlike renewable energy or natural gas plants.

The plan, however, was widely seen as an effort to alter the balance of competitive electricity markets that federal regulators have been cultivating since the late 1980s. Critics said it would have largely helped a handful of coal and nuclear companies, including the utility FirstEnergy and coal-mining firm Murray Energy, while raising rates for consumers.

“The Commission’s endorsement of markets does not conflict with its oversight of reliability, and the Commission has been able to focus on both without compromising its commitment to either,” the FERC said in an order.

The FERC said while it had not used the term “resilience,” it had pursued policies that would “ensure the uninterrupted supply of electricity in the face of fuel disruptions or extreme weather threats.”

Perry issued a statement saying “as intended, my proposal initiated a national debate on the resiliency of our electric system.”

But most analysts saw the decision as a setback for the administration.

This outright rejection of subsidies for coal and nuclear shows that Commissioners of both parties have little interest in manipulating electricity markets in favor of any fuel source,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former consultant at the Obama-era Energy Department, now a lecturer at American University’s Center for Environmental Policy.

“The law and common sense prevailed over special interests today,” John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project Coalition, said in a statement. “The FERC correctly found that the Department of Energy’s proposal violated the basic requirements of the Federal Power Act. Secretary Perry’s plan would have subsidized coal and nuclear plants with a 90-day fuel supply yet Perry never explained why those plants were inherently more reliable or resilient.”

Source: The Washington Post

Date: February 2018

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coalenergy policynuclearUnited States

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