Published: Thu, January 11, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Janet Redman: Industry-friendly FERC rightly rejects Perry's coal and nukes bailout

Janet Redman: Industry-friendly FERC rightly rejects Perry's coal and nukes bailout

Murray Energy Corporation ("Murray Energy") is extremely disappointed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") has failed to enact the immediate reforms necessary to ensure the reliability, resiliency, and fuel security of our Nation's electric power grids and, instead, dodged the decision. "We expect to review the additional material and promptly decide whether additional Commission action is warranted to address grid resilience", FERC wrote.

His work was reportedly on behalf of coal mining company Murray Energy Corp. and electric utility FirstEnergy Corp., two of the most vocal advocates for the Perry plan that FERC rejected.

The commission, in which four of the five members were nominated by President Donald Trump, ruled while it is concerned about making sure the nation's energy grid can be maintained, there does not appear to be any past or present retirements that could threaten the electricity grid.

Perry's rule was written to be fuel agnostic at face value, but its details would have bolstered coal and nuclear plants in the energy market because natural gas- and oil-fed generators generally can't keep 90 days' worth of fuel onsite (they receive their fuel via pipeline), and renewable energy generation is variable.

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Murray says the recent cold snap that hit the East Coast showed coal's value, as power users in the Southeast were asked to cut back on electricity usage because of a shortage of natural gas. Instead of plunging the eastern seaboard into cold darkness, the storm caused relatively few outages, including one that shut down a nuclear power plant in MA.

In Monday's notice, FERC wrote that the proposed rule never met the threshold requirement of showing that grid managers are now offering "unjust and unreasonable" compensation to existing coal and nuclear plants. "It was about protecting the bank accounts of plant owners at the expense of everyday Americans".

Perry cited a "crisis" requiring the regulators to make the power grid more resilient, but his plan was widely seen as an attempt to prop up coal and nuclear power companies.

Environmental groups said the administration's plan would boost dirty and unsafe fuels, while non-coal and nuclear energy providers warned about interference in the free market and manufacturers that use huge amounts of electricity complained about higher energy prices.

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In its decision, the five-member energy panel essentially agreed with critics who said there was no evidence of a threat to the grid's day-to-day reliability that would justify the action Perry was seeking.

Trump committed to the measure in private conversations last summer with top coal executives. Only coal and nuclear plants can do that.

Murray dismissed the research, claiming that Rhodium Group is "certainly biased" and "shills for the renewable energy industry".

In a notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) in September 2017, the US Energy Secretary said FERC needs to quickly develop new market rules to ensure that the reliability and resiliency attributes of power plants with on-site fuel supplies "are fully valued". He said the FERC order to seek more information about resilience was "only the first step" rather than a final one.

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