June 28, 2018, by Ari Natter
The Trump administration is crafting a plan to keep old, unprofitable coal and nuclear plants running. The cost? Well, it’s subjective.
“It’s not a dollar figure you can count,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry told reporters Thursday on the sidelines of the World Gas Conference in Washington. “You cannot put a dollar figure on the cost to keep America free, to keep the lights on.”
Perry’s comments were a nod to the Trump administration’s efforts to take extraordinary action to keep money-losing coal and nuclear plants online using a measure reserved for matters of national security. Administration officials have argued that gas-fired power plants rely on pipelines that are vulnerable to cyberthreats and other types of attack, while coal and nuclear plants keep fuel on site, making them more reliable.
Still, Perry said the department was working on a cost estimate for the proposal, which could result in federal subsidies for dozens of coal and nuclear plants. A draft memo obtained by Bloomberg outlined a plan to force grid operators to buy supplies from struggling plants using an obscure set of laws reserved for emergencies, including the 68-year-old Defense Production Act created at the outset of the Korean War.
Until the number of plants and the price of the subsidies is known, an estimate is hard to come by, although critics of the plan have said it could cost American consumers between $16 billion and $34 billion a year.
“I think American’s understand this is a national security issue,” Perry said.