President Trump has ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to determine how to keep U.S. coal and nuclear power plants operating even though they struggle to compete against plants using natural gas and renewable energy sources.
"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," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in an email briefing on the subject Friday. Trump has asked Perry "to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources and looks forward to his recommendations," Sanders added.
A 41-page memo on the subject obtained by Bloomberg and published Thursday night was distributed to the National Security Council Tuesday. The memo says coal and nuclear plants are "essential to support the Nation's defense facilities" because U.S. security "relies on a U.S. domestic industrial base," so "[f]ederal action is necessary to stop the further premature retirements of fuel-secure generation capacity." Energy grid operators may be compelled to purchase power from plants at risk of closure.
Coal stocks rose with Friday's announcement, and industry leaders endorsed the proposal. "Without action, we may pass a reliability and resiliency crisis point of no return," said the National Mining Association.