The Trump administration may soon take action to try to save the nation’s struggling coal and nuclear plants.
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The White House is considering a measure that would require electrical grid operators to purchase electricity from coal and nuclear plants that are at risk of going offline, according to a draft memo circulated before the Department of Energy, viewed by Bloomberg. Under the proposal, the president would exercise emergency authority to carry out the directive, which the memo reportedly says is necessary to preserve national security.
As Bloomberg noted, there is no guarantee the president would sign off on the directive, but the White House did issue a statement on Friday saying it was weighing different options to keep America's energy grid "strong."
"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," the statement read. "President Trump has directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources, and looks forward to receiving his recommendations."
An increasing number of coal and nuclear plants have gone under in recent years while a cheaper and cleaner alternative, natural gas, has become more mainstream. Not only did Trump campaign on a promise to revive the ailing coal industry, but administration officials allege keeping the plants online is necessary to deliverable reliable, always-on power capabilities in case of an emergency or even severe weather events.
The draft memo also states that U.S. Defense Department installations are almost entirely dependent on the commercial grid, furthering the argument that a reliable electric system is critical, Bloomberg reported.
At least six coal plants announced closures in 2017, continuing a years-long trend in the industry. More than a dozen are expected to close this year, after a record high of 15 shuttered in 2015.
The Department of Energy proposal would require grid operators to purchase electricity from a designated list of coal and nuclear plants over the course of two years.