Trump administration proposes mandating purchase of coal, nuclear power, citing national security

A smokestack in Dayton, Ohio.
(Image credit: J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

On Friday, the White House National Security Council is schedule to review a draft proposal from the Energy Department that would order power grid operators to buy energy from ailing coal and nuclear power plants, citing national security needs, Bloomberg News reports, calling the proposal "an unprecedented intervention into U.S. energy markets." Coal and nuclear plants are closing down due to age and market forces — natural gas and renewable energy are cheaper and cleaner — and the proposal is pitched as a "prudent stop-gap measure" that will subsidize struggling coal and nuclear plants while the Energy Department conducts a two-year study on "grid security challenges."

This isn't Energy Secretary Rick Perry's first attempt to subsidize coal and nuclear plants — federal regulators shot down his plan to directly compensate those plants in January, saying there's no evidence closing coal-fired plants would endanger the electric grid and such a move would raise costs for consumers. But this new 41-page proposal, dated May 29 and marked "not for further distribution," relies on emergency powers under the Federal Power Act and the 68-year-old Defense Production Act. Experts told Bloomberg that invoking national security concerns could stave off challenges this time around.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.