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article imageFERC — There is no national security risk in coal plant closures

By Karen Graham     Jun 12, 2018 in Politics
Washington - Members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) criticized President Trump’s order to bail out coal and nuclear generators during a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, saying they do not see a national security risk.
There was a unanimous rejection of the Department of Energy's proposal to subsidize money-losing coal and nuclear power plants by all five FERC members at the Senate committee hearing today.
When asked by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing whether they believed the U.S. faced a national security emergency in wholesale power markets because of the closures, not one of the five FERC members, four of them appointed by Trump, answered in the affirmative.
And it is not that the members of the independent commission are not sympathetic to the plight of coal miners, but the bottom line appears to be that the president and the DOE are trying to usurp the authority of FERC, who are responsible for safeguarding the nation's power supply.
FERC member Richard Glick told the panel he was "sympathetic to the plight of coal miners who have been disproportionately affected" as coal's slice of the nation's energy production has fallen.
Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant in 1998  at the time it was owned and operated by GPU. Oyster Creek...
Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant in 1998, at the time it was owned and operated by GPU. Oyster Creek is scheduled to be permanently shut down by October 2018.
"FERC has a responsibility to ensure the reliability and resilience of the grid. And we should take our duty seriously. But we cannot try to stop the natural evolution of this industry by claiming there is a national security emergency unless there is evidence that that emergency exists," he said.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the panel's chairwoman, also agreed with the commission, saying closures had "not reached the point where the quality of electric service has been visibly compromised."
According to Utility Dive, the commission is currently addressing coal and nuclear retirements in its resilience docket, but Commissioner Robert Powelson said a “hard and fast mandate” to save the plants could “usurp the marketplace” and force other resources offline.
This stance goes against the DOE's plan to gain control of the power grid. The DOE's solution would also do an end-run around regional transmission operators (RTOs) that operate the grids serving over two-thirds of the U.S. population under FERC oversight.
In February  2018  FirstEnergy announced it will deactivate the coal-fired Pleasants Power Station i...
In February, 2018, FirstEnergy announced it will deactivate the coal-fired Pleasants Power Station in Willow Island, West Virginia.
White House calls on Perry to take "Immediate action"
On June 1, a DOE memo was leaked that outlined the DOE's proposal to help struggling coal and nuclear power plants, which DOE Secretary Rick Perry claimed were necessary to our national security.
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters: "Keeping America's energy grid and infrastructure strong and secure protects our national security. ... 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."
A number of energy companies and politicians have spoken out against the DOE plan, including Exelon CEO Chris Crane and PJM Interconnection, the nation's largest power grid operator.
In a prepared statement, PJM wrote: "Any federal intervention in the market to order customers to buy electricity from specific power plants would be damaging to the markets and therefore costly to consumers. There is no need for any such drastic action."
More about FERC, Doe, government control, Trump administration, National security
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