Trump orders ‘immediate steps’ to boost coal, nuclear plants

Katie Ramirez
June 3, 2018

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 USA, the White House said Friday.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the ongoing closure of coal and nuclear plants is "leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation's energy mix, and impacting the resilience of our power grid".

"President Trump has directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources, and looks forward to his recommendations", Sanders said Friday.

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 US reaches a tipping point in the loss of essential, secure electric generation resources.

Some analysts have asserted that there is an environmental case for keeping the nation's ailing nuclear plants open, since, if they closed, their carbon-free electricity would most likely be replaced by natural gas and emissions would rise.

The memo allegedly wrote that "Too many of these fuel-secure plants have retired prematurely and many more have recently announced retirement". U.S. Defense Department installations are 99 percent dependent on the commercial power grid, one reason that electric system reliability is vitally important to national defense and homeland security, the memo asserts.

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But federal energy regulators have rejected that argument and turned down a proposal late past year from Perry to subsidize nuclear and coal plants for providing "resilience" to the grid.

An increasing number of coal and nuclear plants have gone under in recent years while a cheaper and cleaner alternative, natural gas, has become more mainstream.

The DoE memo suggests that United States energy grid operators could be compelled to purchase power from a pre-approved list over a two-year period, "to forestall any future actions toward retirement, decommissioning or deactivation", according to Ars Technica. 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.

Trump's directive comes as administration officials search for ways to extend the life of coal and nuclear power plants they argue provide reliable, always-on power capable of snapping back after intense storms and emergencies.

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.

The Trump administration's claims of energy security for keeping coal and nuclear plants online is not supported by the facts, as multiple power networks, including PJM, one of the biggest U.S. independent systems, point to a recent extremely cold "bomb cyclone" weather event in the USA northeast that showed the regional grid operating efficiently despite coal power plant closures, cited by Ars Technica. "There is no need for any such drastic action", said a PJM spokesperson about the new idea.

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