Trump administration taking steps to save coal plants; effect on Colstrip unclear

Coal and nuclear plants would receive a lifeline under the DOE's new proposed order

Coal and nuclear plants would receive a lifeline under the DOE's new proposed order

E&E News - an online energy-focused media outlet - in April reported that the DPA was being studied as a tool to provide Trump with sweeping powers to help any industry he deemed crucial to national defense.

The American Council on Renewable Vitality, a nonprofit that represents numerous teams that wish to emphasize renewable power sources, stated in an announcement that the administration is intervening to bail out coal and nuclear energy vegetation "which are now not aggressive on their very own".

Countering global efforts to stem the rise of global warming and increase the use of sustainable energies, Trump and his advisors are dusting off a 20th-century national security act in another attempt to bolster flagging coal and nuclear power generating industries in the US.

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

"Unfortunately, impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our Nation's energy mix, and impacting the resilience of our power grid", Sanders said in a statement.

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He told Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to "prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources".

The agency also is making plans to establish a "Strategic Electric Generation Reserve" with the aim of promoting the national defense and maximizing domestic energy supplies.

As the document is a draft labeled "not for further distribution", it's unclear whether DOE is moving forward with such an order, or if the draft memo was just teeing up a potential path forward.

Energy Department representatives did not respond to an emailed request for comment. Perry argued that losing the plants could threaten the nation's power grid. This time, Perry is planning to resort to federal emergency measures typically employed during wartime or natural disasters, according to Bloomberg. FERC instead launched a fresh review (AD18-7) of grid resilience to determine if commission action was warranted in this area.

Under the proposal, the president would exercise emergency authority to carry out the directive, which the memo reportedly says is necessary to preserve national security. The Energy Department has primarily used that authority to address major power outage events and shortages, such as the California energy crisis in 2000 and the Northeast blackout in 2003.

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The DPA, enacted in 1950 during the Korean War to ensure the availability of critical materials and resources for the United States national defense, allows the secretary of energy, through a presidential delegation, to require contracts or allocations of materials and services to maximize domestic energy supplies.

Under a state law passed in 2016, utilities in OR are not allowed to bring coal-fired power into their customers' energy mix past 2035.

"Once a nuclear power plant closes, it begins decommissioning and will not be reopened".

"Arbitrary market interventions of this sort have no place in the electricity structure that has kept American electric power reliable and affordable", Wetstone says.

The plan would exempt power plants from obeying a host of environmental laws and spend billions to keep coal-fired plants open. Even natural gas supplies can be disrupted by supply-line breakdowns, they suggest. In bankruptcy documents, the company revealed its Bruce Mansfield plant, in Shippingport, Pa., lost $90 million in 2017 alone, and is projected to lose $104 million this year.

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The shale gas boom and inexorable rise of wind and solar power are indeed having a profound impact on the United States electricity system, with natural gas recently edging out coal as the largest source of USA power generation.

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