Appointed regulators reject plan to rescue coal and nuclear plants

Appointed regulators reject plan to rescue coal and nuclear plants

Appointed regulators reject plan to rescue coal and nuclear plants

However, the Regulatory Commission said that Perry's arguments were unfounded.

Calling it "a major blow to the Trump administration's efforts to revive America's declining coal industry", The New York Times article notes that Energy Secretary Rick Perry wanted to subsidize failing coal and nuclear plants while ignoring natural gas manufacturers.

Four of the five commissioners who run FERC were appointed by Trump, who has vowed to resuscitate coal country by relaxing regulation. By dismissing the DOE proposal, FERC avoids real and negative impacts on our electric grid and the competitive markets where energy is bought and sold, including massive cost increases, out-of-market actions, and unduly preferential treatment to politically-favored coal and nuclear resources.

Perry's rule was written to be fuel agnostic at face value, but its details would have bolstered coal and nuclear plants in the energy market because natural gas- and oil-fed generators generally can't keep 90 days' worth of fuel onsite (they receive their fuel via pipeline), and renewable energy generation is variable.

Definitions of resiliency do exist for FERC to draw upon, but it will be unlikely to find them in the DOE proposal, which did not identify a single one relevant to electric generation.

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"This is really FERC saying that any change we make to the grid is going to be grounded in fact", Greg Wetstone, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, said in an interview. Regional market operators have 60 days to submit the required information. "The FERC correctly found that the Department of Energy's proposal violated the basic requirements of the Federal Power Act".

"Corey Lewandowski understands FERC and the rule of law like Rick Perry understands energy markets and fair competition: not at all", Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, told ThinkProgress via email in response to Lewandowski's claim. Instead of plunging the eastern seaboard into cold darkness, the storm caused relatively few outages, including one that shut down a nuclear power plant in MA. And critics said that 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.

In Monday's notice, FERC wrote that the proposed rule never met the threshold requirement of showing that grid managers are now offering "unjust and unreasonable" compensation to existing coal and nuclear plants. But the White House eventually agreed with Perry's decision to reject the proposed two-year moratorium on closures of coal-fired power plants - an action that would have been an unprecedented federal intervention in the nation's energy markets. The record, however, does not demonstrate that such an outcome would be just and reasonable.

By comparison, Neil Chatterjee, a Republican and former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, wrote in his separate comments that "I applaud Secretary Perry's bold leadership in jump-starting a national conversation on this urgent challenge", and expressed concern about the "many nuclear and coal units particularly at risk of economic retirement despite their significant contribution to bulk power system resilience".

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