Climate Action

Trump plans ‘unprecedented’ action to stop coal plant closures

The White House is planning to take drastic steps to keep coal and nuclear plants from closing.

  • 04 June 2018
  • Adam Wentworth

The White House is planning to take drastic steps to keep coal and nuclear plants from closing.

A press statement, released last Friday, said US President Donald Trump “believes in total energy independence and dominance”, but the market was under threat from plant closures.

 “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,” the statement continued.

As a result, President Trump has instructed Energy Secretary Rick Perry “to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources, and looks forward to receiving his recommendations.”

Further to this release, Bloomberg News obtained access to an internal memo which showed government officials were planning to force grid operators to buy electricity from coal and nuclear plants. This action, described as an ‘unprecedented intervention’ into the US energy market, would help to extend the life of these aging plants amid competition from other fuel sources.

The government could possibly revive old laws, such as the Federal Power Act enacted in 1920, to justify supporting the ailing industries.

Many coal plants have been forced into early retirement as a result of the increase in renewable energy, cheap gas prices and the associated costs of environmental clean-up.

According to campaigning group The Sierra Club, 268 coal plants have closed since 2010, which has changed the market. Peabody Energy, the largest coal producer in the US, filed for bankruptcy in 2016 as a result.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance also predicts that a further 16,200 megawatts of coal capacity and 550 megawatts of nuclear power will close this year alone.

The Trump administration’s intervention to stem this tide stands in high contrast to the move towards cleaner forms of energy. Some industry estimates put the global growth in renewable energy at 400 percent by 2040.

Last month, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, announced plans to impose strict new standards of the state’s coal plants. This would cause the small remainder of facilities to change the way they operate, or close down permanently.