Federal regulator rejects Trump coal rescue plan

Federal regulators have rejected a controversial Trump administration proposal that would have propped up slumping co...

Posted: Jan 9, 2018 10:34 AM
Updated: Jan 9, 2018 10:34 AM

Federal regulators have rejected a controversial Trump administration proposal that would have propped up slumping coal companies.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dismissed Energy Secretary Rick Perry's call to subsidize power plants like coal and nuclear that maintain a 90-day supply of fuel on site. Perry cited a need to improve the resilience of the nation's power grid, especially from severe weather.

The proposal, which was supported by coal mining companies like Murray Energy, was widely seen as an attempt to help the coal and nuclear industry. Coal, in particular, has been crushed in recent years by the rise of cleaner energy like natural gas and solar and by tougher environmental regulation.

In a blow to Trump's campaign promise to help coal country, FERC on Monday terminated a rulemaking process that Perry had launched.

The independent agency, which is run by bipartisan commissioners appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, faced a Wednesday deadline to rule on the matter.

FERC did decide to take steps to evaluate the resilience of the power system. It directed regional transmission organizations and independent system operators, which move electricity through the grid, to submit information. FERC said it expects to "promptly decide whether additional Commission action is warranted to address grid resilience."

"This is a good day for everyone who cares about good governance and healthy markets," said Justin Gundlach, a staff attorney at Columbia University's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.

Gundlach slammed the Energy Department proposal as a "gambit that sought to funnel money to uneconomic coal-fired power plants in a way that would have ignored the law."

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a U.N. special envoy on climate change, called the FERC decision a win for "consumers, the free market and clean air." He said Perry's proposal was an attempt to "prop up the coal industry by forcing American consumers to pay more for energy."

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Former FERC commissioners warned in a letter last year that the Energy Department proposal would raise costs for customers and "disrupt decades of substantial investment made in the modern electric power system."

The FERC decision is bad news for coal companies hurting from a wave of retirements of coal-fired power plants that have switched to cheaper fuels like natural gas. Between 2010 and 2015, coal plants accounted for more than 52% of retired power plant capacity, according to government statistics.

Murray Energy argued the new rule would ensure that coal plants would be there to supply electricity when it's most needed, especially during extreme weather like the recent cold weather in parts of the United States.

"If it were not for the electricity generated by our Nation's coal-fired power plants, and nuclear plants, we would be experiencing massive brownouts and blackouts in this Country," Murray wrote in a statement to CNNMoney. (Murray CEO Robert Murray filed a defamation lawsuit last year against John Oliver, HBO and CNN owner Time Warner, alleging "character assassination.")

The Energy Department said the rule was needed to "address the crisis at hand" regarding the resilience of the electric grid. The department cited the 2014 extreme cold snap known as the Polar Vortex as well as natural disasters such as Hurricanes Sandy, Harvey and Irma.

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However, some analysts pointed out that power outages are usually caused by downed power lines, not a short supply of fuel. Less than 0.1% of all electricity disturbances over the last five years were caused by fuel supply emergencies, according to a report by the Rhodium Group, a research firm.

Apple wrote a letter to FERC on Monday urging the agency to reject the Energy Department proposal and stating that the "grid is not facing a crisis."

Apple warned the proposed rule would "inhibit, rather than promote, a well-designed and competitive electricity market that can drive down costs for consumers and unleash competition."

Climate activists cheered the FERC decision.

"FERC's announcement is a return to reality after months of billionaire coal and nuclear executives pressuring DOE and FERC to illegally setup bailouts for their uneconomic plants," Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, wrote in a statement.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313166

Reported Deaths: 7228
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21496257
Hinds20294414
Harrison17814309
Rankin13573278
Jackson13411246
Madison10066217
Lee9962173
Jones8364163
Forrest7649152
Lauderdale7181240
Lowndes6370145
Lamar621686
Lafayette6171118
Washington5323133
Bolivar4797132
Oktibbeha461498
Panola4561105
Pearl River4499145
Marshall4397103
Warren4380121
Pontotoc419572
Monroe4100133
Union409076
Neshoba4026176
Lincoln3950110
Hancock377786
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332484
Pike3301105
Scott315373
Alcorn311968
Yazoo310769
Itawamba299477
Copiah296465
Simpson294788
Coahoma294379
Tippah287768
Prentiss279560
Adams269582
Marion268880
Leake266273
Wayne262341
Grenada260386
Covington256381
George246848
Newton246061
Winston226881
Tishomingo225967
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone182033
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun170132
Yalobusha163337
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125938
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104826
Claiborne102230
Benton99125
Humphreys96133
Kemper95428
Franklin83623
Quitman80216
Choctaw76118
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50317
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530325

Reported Deaths: 10966
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson763971520
Mobile40908804
Madison34717503
Tuscaloosa25730452
Montgomery24314588
Shelby23401249
Baldwin21107307
Lee15856171
Calhoun14488314
Morgan14282279
Etowah13819353
Marshall12210223
Houston10557280
Elmore10044205
Limestone9954150
Cullman9649193
St. Clair9644242
Lauderdale9419241
DeKalb8825185
Talladega8214175
Walker7223277
Autauga6918108
Jackson6804112
Blount6651137
Colbert6292134
Coffee5506119
Dale4828111
Russell440638
Chilton4279112
Franklin425582
Covington4118118
Tallapoosa4019152
Escambia393276
Chambers3559123
Dallas3547151
Clarke350861
Marion3113100
Pike310577
Lawrence299898
Winston274072
Bibb260464
Marengo249264
Geneva249077
Pickens234160
Barbour230757
Hale222677
Butler215969
Fayette212062
Henry188744
Cherokee184445
Randolph179941
Monroe177340
Washington167039
Macon158750
Clay156156
Crenshaw152057
Cleburne148741
Lamar141934
Lowndes138653
Wilcox127030
Bullock123041
Conecuh110129
Perry107526
Coosa107128
Sumter104332
Greene92334
Choctaw60424
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