April 11, 2018 Read More →

Murkowski: No Senate Action Now on FirstEnergy Bankruptcy

S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):

U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski said she is alarmed about the premature closure of U.S. nuclear plants but that her committee is unlikely to weigh in on merchant generator FirstEnergy Solutions Corp.’s request for the U.S. Department of Energy to help keep several of its at-risk coal-fired and nuclear power plants open.

FirstEnergy Solutions, or FES, asked the DOE in late March to issue an emergency order under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act that would require the PJM Interconnection to cover the operating costs of financially struggling coal and nuclear plants in the region to avoid potential retirements that the company said would threaten grid reliability. FES made the request a day after informing PJM that the company planned to retire three nuclear plants in the region and shortly before FES filed for bankruptcy restructuring on March 31.

“It’s always a big deal when you have a major energy company like this file for bankruptcy,” Murkowski said April 10 on the sidelines of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C. “It causes one to kind of look to the landscape and say, ‘OK, what policy decisions may have had an impact or implication on this.'”

But Murkowski said the Senate energy committee will await a decision from the DOE before taking any potential action on the issue. “I don’t think that we would weigh in as a committee,” Murkowski said. “I don’t recall any other situation that would be similar where we had weighed in as a committee.”

The DOE does not have a deadline to respond to FES’ request, but both President Donald Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have said they want the agency to act quickly. However, at an industry conference in New York City on April 9, Perry said a 202(c) order may not be the way the Trump administration supports at-risk coal and nuclear generating facilities but that the administration will try to find a way to save those plants.

More ($): Senate Committee Unlikely To Weigh In On FES Bankruptcy

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