Rick Perry Resorts to Subsidizing Coal With Measures Used in Wartime and Natural Disasters

Under the purported banner of national security, Energy Secretary Rick Perry appears again to have heeded the self-described “desperate” calls of coal baron Robert Murray in order to prop up dying coal and nuclear plants. This time, Perry is planning to resort to federal emergency measures typically employed during wartime or natural disasters, according to Bloomberg.

Bloomberg first reported this latest development based on a draft Department of Energy (DOE) memo:

Trump administration officials are making plans to order grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants in an effort to extend their life, a move that could represent an unprecedented intervention into U.S.energy markets.

The Energy Department would exercise emergency authority under a pair of federal laws to direct the operators to purchase electricity or electric generation capacity from at-risk facilities, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg News. 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.

Coal Mogul Blues

For more than a year, Murray, CEO of the nation’s biggest underground mining company, Murray Energy, has been pleading directly with President Donald Trump and Secretary Perry to bail out coal plants that have been unable to compete with natural gas and renewables and risk closing.

In August 2017, Murray sent the White House a letter spelling out his industry’s woes and complaining that his pleas had not yet been answered by the Trump administration. In particular, he was lobbying on behalf of Murray Energy’s biggest customer, FirstEnergy, which ultimately filed for bankruptcy in March 2018.

We are desperate for the President to, once again, order Energy Secretary Perry to invoke Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act for FirstEnergy’s merchant power plants,”…

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