By Grant Smith, Environmental Working Group
Yesterday, a panel of federal regulators unanimously rejected President Trump’s order for an emergency bailout of financially failing coal and nuclear power plants. The bailout would have increased not only utility bills, but also premature deaths from air pollution.
It was the second time this year that members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, said there is not athreat to national security that justifies forcing Americans to pay more for electricity from coal and nuclear plants, even when cheaper power is available from solar, wind and natural gas. All but one of the members were appointed by Trump.
In January, FERC formally ruled against a similar proposal from Energy Secretary Rick Perry that energy analysts said would have contributed to an estimated 27,000 premature deaths in the next 25 years and could have added over $10 billion a year to utility customers’ bills. This time, the commissioners’ thumbs-down came in testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
According to Utility Dive, FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre told senators “there is no immediate calamity or threat” to the nation’s electrical grid. When asked if any of them believe there is a national security emergency requiring the unprecedented intervention into the wholesale power market, “all five commissioners fell conspicuously silent.”
The administration’s bailout scheme would not protect national security, but would be a blatant political payback for the coal industry’s support of Trump’s campaign and his rhetoric promising to bring back coal jobs. Aging coal and nuclear plants are losing billions of dollars, and without subsidies to make them competitive with renewable energy and natural gas, utilities are proposing to close 75 coal and nuclear facilities in just two short years. For a look at the past and future of U.S. coal and nuclear plants, check out these maps from the New York Times.