President Trump’s support of coal is as consistent as it is relentless. This week, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced it’s considering invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950 to force special payments to coal power plants operating in unregulated wholesale markets.
The administration’s premise is essentially the same as it was last year, when DOE Secretary Rick Perry asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to compel grid operators to financially compensate coal and nuclear plants to stay open. That was only facilities able to store 90 days of fuel on-site to ensure grid reliability.
FERC unanimously rejected that premise as not supported by facts. This time, DOE is arguing national defense is at stake, a position its lawyers apparently believe FERC and the courts will find difficult to oppose given presidential authority.
The law was invoked in 2001 to deal with emergencies during the California Energy Crisis of 2001. With no similar situation now, however, the administration would face a very high bar to avoid an injunction that puts any action on hold while the court considers the case.
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