The Trump administration’s latest plan to “save” coal? Force companies to pay for it.
In the United States, coal and nuclear power are on their way out of vogue, while renewables and natural gas are on their way in. For some, it’s a painful shift, forcing coal and nuclear power plant “retirements” a nice way of saying “shutdowns.” According to the
coal-panderer commander-in-chief, this could be disastrous for our nation’s security. So the Trump administration has a plan to stop it: force power grid operators to buy coal and nuclear power.
A “confidential” document making the rounds in Washington, D.C. outlines the plan’s details. It claims coal and nuclear power plants are more resilient than alternative power sources — they can more quickly recover from a disruption, such as a natural disaster or enemy attack — because they have a “secure on-site fuel supply.” No one is quite sure who wrote the document but many suspect it’s from the Department of Energy (DoE).
Based on the logic of the document, losing these plants could weaken the U.S.’s national security. To prevent that, the plan proposes requiring power grid operators, most of which are publicly-traded corporations that ensure electricity travels from plants where the electricity is generated to the people and businesses that need it, to purchase power from failing coal and nuclear power plants. That would happen for the next 24 months while the DoE conducts an “analysis” of the issue.
Typically, the executive branch wouldn’t have this control over the dealings of private businesses, but there are laws — the Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA)and the Federal Power Act (FPA) in particular — that allow the branch to buck this trend. The DPA gives the President the ability to force businesses to sign contracts if they are necessary for the nation’s defense; Section 202(C) of the FPA gives the Secretary of Energy authority to do what they deem necessary to ensure reliable power during emergency situations.
The White House has not yet confirmed that the document is official, but White House press secretary Sarah Sanders did release a statement noting that Trump is calling on the U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to put a stop to the retirement of coal-fired and nuclear power plants. This document could be how the DoE plans to make that happen.
A lack of official confirmation hasn’t stopped power grid operators, environmental experts, and others from weighing in on the proposal.
PJM Interconnection, the largest grid operator in the U.S., released a statement in response to the plan, essentially calling it unnecessary and potentially harmful. They say scheduled retirements present “no immediate threat to system reliability” and claim they have supplies that will ensure reliability through at least 2021.
“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,” according to the statement.
Whether the plan outlined in the document comes to fruition or not, clearly the Trump administration isn’t ready to renege on its campaign trail promise to “save” the coal industry. This new plan shows it doesn’t seem to care if it has to put the rest of the world in harm’s way in order to make it happen.