Energy Dept disappoints US coal industry: no order keeping plants open


The White House, Washington, D.C.  [Creative Commons license by dcjohn]

The White House, Washington, D.C. [Creative Commons license by dcjohn]

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The Trump administration has reneged on one aspect of a promise widely discussed throughout the 2016 presidential campaign: reviving the coal industry.

President Donald Trump declared the United States coal industry would thrive under his watch, but the Trump administration and the Energy Department have just delivered a blow to the electric-utility users of that fuel.

The White House and the Energy Department have agreed there will not be a new emergency order that protects any coal plant in the country from closing.

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The president had declared, both publicly and privately to major coal operators in the U.S., that such an order would be enacted.

That kind of emergency action, while legal, had previously been intended for use solely during times of crisis. The proposed order would have applied it across the board and permanently.

According to The Washington Post, the Energy Department considered the emergency action, but ultimately ruled it unnecessary—and the White House agreed with that conclusion.

Coal, by Flicker user oatsy40 (Used Under CC License)

Coal, by Flicker user oatsy40 (Used Under CC License)

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Certain utilities now operating coal plants believe they cannot survive economically, as those plants remain uncompetitive with cheaper renewable energy sources and the booming use of natural gas to fuel newer and more efficient power plants.

President Trump had reportedly committed to the emergency measure with executives from Murray Energy and First Energy Corporations; he reportedly told aides, "I want this done" after reading letters from the executives.

In those letters, the executives claimed thousands of coal miners would be laid off and pensions would be put at risk if immediate action to fund and keep the coal-burning plants humming was not taken.

READ THIS: From coal miner to wind-farm worker: Wyoming retraining program

Overall, the White House remains "sympathetic" to the coal industry, according to the Post, but believes further regulatory change is the best route forward.

"With respect to this particular case at this particular time, the White House and the Department of Energy are in agreement that the evidence does not warrant the use of this emergency authority," Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said.

The emergency action stems from a small section of the Federal Power Act, which allows the U.S. government to step in and aid the nation's power supply during times of crisis.

Coal-fired Nanticoke Generating Station, Ontario, Canada, now being converted to 44-MW solar farm

Coal-fired Nanticoke Generating Station, Ontario, Canada, now being converted to 44-MW solar farm

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It also exempts power plants from having to comply with all laws related to the environment and emissions.

While the Federal Power Act has been used twice in recent times over concerns coal-powered plant shutdowns would cause regional outages, the action not taken was a far broader and more permanent application of its powers.

CHECK OUT: Ohio bill would grant permanent subsidies to coal-fired power plants

The non-action is a follow-up to an Ohio bill that would provide permanent subsidies for two specific coal-fired power plants.

That bill never gained traction in the Ohio House of Representatives, and no further action has been taken.

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