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 11:34 AM
Updated: Jan 9, 2018 11:34 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."

Related: This small Kentucky town isn't waiting on Washington

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.

Related: GE has a fossil fuels problem

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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 31376

Reported Deaths: 1976
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9132533
Lake3260167
Cass15816
Allen124065
St. Joseph115534
Hendricks111765
Hamilton109691
Johnson1080104
Elkhart99127
Madison58058
Bartholomew47433
Porter47321
Clark45338
LaPorte39921
Tippecanoe3693
Jackson3591
Delaware34933
Howard34517
Hancock31727
Shelby31221
Floyd31238
Boone28135
Morgan25824
Vanderburgh2422
Decatur22231
White2218
Montgomery22116
Clinton2081
Harrison18421
Noble18120
Grant18120
Dubois1782
Greene16723
Warrick16426
Dearborn16221
Monroe15810
Henry1566
Lawrence14222
Vigo1417
Miami1371
Putnam1317
Jennings1264
Orange12422
Scott1163
Ripley1126
Franklin1068
Carroll912
Daviess8116
Steuben792
Kosciusko781
Newton7410
Wabash722
Wayne695
Marshall641
Fayette634
LaGrange602
Jasper541
Washington521
Fulton461
Rush452
Jay430
Jefferson411
Clay391
Pulaski390
Randolph383
Whitley342
Brown331
Sullivan321
Starke313
Owen311
DeKalb281
Knox240
Benton240
Crawford230
Perry230
Huntington222
Tipton221
Wells220
Blackford201
Switzerland190
Fountain172
Posey170
Parke170
Spencer141
Gibson132
Ohio130
Adams121
Warren121
Vermillion90
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0152

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 31911

Reported Deaths: 1969
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin5188228
Cuyahoga3927209
Marion261721
Hamilton2403128
Lucas2107229
Pickaway204235
Mahoning1334169
Summit1220159
Butler77625
Stark68289
Lorain64158
Montgomery59315
Trumbull52542
Columbiana47850
Belmont38412
Miami34830
Warren32819
Tuscarawas3122
Portage31058
Delaware29613
Medina28819
Ashtabula27732
Wood27445
Lake26711
Geauga25629
Wayne24850
Fairfield2403
Clark2066
Licking20410
Allen18931
Mercer1843
Richland1833
Clermont1815
Erie1555
Darke15116
Madison1337
Washington11718
Morrow1041
Crawford1043
Greene935
Ottawa907
Putnam8514
Monroe7111
Hocking654
Sandusky6510
Ross632
Jefferson622
Auglaize593
Huron521
Williams511
Hancock481
Muskingum450
Union430
Clinton430
Hardin400
Shelby402
Logan370
Wyandot362
Fulton360
Fayette340
Defiance322
Preble311
Guernsey310
Lawrence280
Carroll282
Champaign261
Holmes251
Brown241
Coshocton240
Knox231
Vinton190
Perry181
Highland181
Seneca182
Ashland170
Scioto150
Henry140
Athens141
Paulding130
Jackson110
Harrison100
Adams81
Gallia71
Pike60
Meigs60
Morgan50
Noble50
Van Wert50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 85°
Angola
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 81°
Huntington
Scattered Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 84°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 82°
Van Wert
Broken Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 82°
Few PM Storms Memorial Day
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events