Trump ally says emergency order from Rick Perry ‘only option’ to save coal
The CEO of coal giant Murray Energy, an ally of President Trump, said Tuesday that Energy Secretary Rick Perry “has to” approve an emergency order to save nuclear and coal power plants across the Midwest, warning of impending “disaster” if the government doesn’t act.
“It’s probably the only option right now,” Bob Murray said in remarks at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York. “It’s absolutely needed. It can be for a specific time frame to stop these nuclear and coal closures until we get our house in order to ensure the resilience, reliability and security of the grid. It doesn’t have to be permanent. It must be done.”
Perry is expected to make a decision soon on whether to approve a petition from Ohio-based utility FirstEnergy to require PJM Interconnection, the nation’s largest federally overseen grid operator, to enter into contracts with coal and nuclear plants across the Midwest to use their electricity.
PJM’s territory covers 13 states from Illinois to the District of Columbia.
FirstEnergy is asking Perry to use section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act, which gives him the authority to direct the “temporary” continued use of power plants in emergency circumstances that include war, energy shortages, or sudden surges in demand.
FirstEnergy says the grid is threatened because of the scheduled retirement of coal and nuclear power plants that have years of useful life “but cannot operate profitably under current market conditions.”
The emergency authority is not meant to be used for economic reasons. FirstEnergy’s coal and nuclear divisions recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Critics have said approving the petition would disrupt competitive electricity markets and act as a bailout that would set a bad precedent.
Perry on Monday expressed doubt that he would approve FirstEnergy’s request, but said he is considering other options.
“My job is to find solutions to challenges that face us,” Perry said at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference. “The 202(c) may not be the way we decide is most appropriate — the most efficient way to address this. It is not the only play.”
Murray Energy, America’s largest privately owned coal company, is uniquely set up to benefit from an emergency order benefiting FirstEnergy’s power plants.