President Donald Trump has asked Energy Secretary Rick Perry to “prepare immediate steps” to keep coal and nuclear power plants from closing, the White House announced on Friday.
“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,” the White House said in a statement, adding that the President has directed the energy secretary “to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources, and looks forward to receiving his recommendations.”
A draft Energy Department memo obtained by CNN identifies nuclear and coal-fired power plants as examples of “fuel-secure plants,” and states that federal action is needed to halt shutdowns of that type of power generation capacity.
The memo says that “resources that have a secure on-site fuel supply, including nuclear and coal-fired power plants” are necessary to shore up key energy infrastructure and bolster defense capabilities. US national security “relies on a robust US domestic industrial base, of which the coal, nuclear, and oil and natural gas industries are critical strategic components,” according to the directive.
The memo further states that “it is necessary and appropriate” for the department to take action to “temporarily delay retirements of fuel-secure electric generation resources.”
It then outlines a plan for the department to direct system operators “to purchase or arrange the purchase of electric energy or electric generation capacity” from a specified list of facilities over a period of 24 months.
On the campaign trail, Trump made promises to revive the struggling coal industry and vowed to undo environmental regulations enacted by former President Barack Obama’s administration.
The Union of Concerned Scientists reacted critically to reports of the directive, suggesting that it will amount to a bail out of coal plants.
“The Trump administration is trying, once again, to fleece ratepayers by giving coal and nuclear power plants billions of dollars in guaranteed profits. It’s absurd to force consumers to bail out money-losing plants when grid operators are having no problem keeping the lights on,” Mike Jacobs, a senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a statement.