October 23, 2017 Read More →

Industry and Consumer Groups Line Up Against U.S. Coal Bailout

Wall Street Journal:

A Trump administration proposal aimed at shoring up coal-fired and nuclear power plants across the nation has generated opposition from an array of energy and consumer interests, including some who are often at odds on energy policy.

Oil and gas companies, wind and solar power producers, some public utilities, electricity consumers and environmentalists—rarely natural allies—are all publicly opposing the Energy Department’s proposal. The plan would effectively guarantee profits for some nuclear and coal-fired power plants, prompting critics that also include former federal regulators to call it a bailout for struggling plants that undermines competitive markets.

The Trump administration, in its proposal late last month, asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to implement market reforms to better reward power plants that can continue running in extreme weather, during attacks or other crises. The effort, led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, is rooted in the argument that if nuclear and coal-fired plants keep going out of business, there is an increased national security risk and chance of power shortages.

The unusual battle lines that have ensued put coal miners and a small group of power companies that stand to benefit up against nearly the entire rest of the energy industry—both fossil and renewable fuels—plus consumers and environmentalists. It has also flipped some traditional economic orthodoxies, with Democrats saying they are arguing for free markets while Mr. Perry and some Republicans are justifying subsidies to help nuclear and coal compete.

Executives at NRG Energy Inc. and even Exelon Corp. , which has lobbied for some state-level subsidies, have publicly expressed concerns about how far the proposal goes. FirstEnergy Corp. appears to be one notable supporter among power companies, with its chief executive commending the effort in a news release. The controlling owner of coal miner Murray Energy Corp. also said the proposal could save thousands of jobs and called it the best action taken in decades for low-cost power.

Industry groups have organized much of the opposition. The American Petroleum Institute, the Washington, D.C., lobbying powerhouse for U.S. oil and gas producers, has already released one joint statement against the proposal with the American Wind Energy Association, the Electricity Consumers Resource Council, the Solar Energy Industries Association and others.

“Competition in power generation over the past 25 years has brought enormous benefits to consumers,” said Marty Durbin, executive vice president of the petroleum group. “We’ve got to let the markets continue to be the driver.”

More: ($) Trump Plan for Coal, Nuclear Power Draws Fire From Environmental, Oil Groups

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