Trump rejected a coal industry push to win a rarely used emergency order

Vastavam web: The Trump administration has rejected a coal industry push to win a rarely used emergency order protecting coal-fired power plants, a decision one executive said breaks a personal promise from President Donald Trump to take the extraordinary step to benefit the industry.The Energy Department says it considered issuing the order sought by companies seeking relief for plants it says are overburdened by environmental regulations and market stresses. But the department ultimately ruled it was unnecessary, and the White House agreed, a spokeswoman said.The decision is a rare example of friction between the beleaguered coal industry and the president who has vowed to save it.

Trump committed to the measure in private conversations with executives from Murray Energy Corp. and FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. after public events in July and early August, according to letters to the White House from Murray Energy and its chief executive, Robert Murray.In the letters, obtained by The Associated Press, Murray said failing to act would cause thousands of coal miners to be laid off and put the pensions of thousands more in jeopardy.Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said the agency was sympathetic to the coal industry’s plight.

“We look at the facts of each issue and consider the authorities we have to address them, but with respect to this particular case at this particular time, the White House and the Department of Energy are in agreement that the evidence does not warrant the use of this emergency authority,” Hynes said in a statement yesterday.The aid Murray sought from Trump involves invoking a little-known section of the US Federal Power Act that allows the Energy Department to temporarily intervene when the nation’s electricity supply is threatened by an emergency, such as war or natural disaster. Among other measures, it temporarily exempts power plants from obeying environmental laws.

Murray’s company is seeking a two-year moratorium on closures of coal-fired power plants, which would be an unprecedented federal intervention in the nation’s energy markets. The company said invoking the provision under the Power Act was “the only viable mechanism” to protect the reliability of the nation’s power supply.Murray told the White House that his key customer, Ohio- based electricity company FirstEnergy Solutions, was at immediate risk of bankruptcy. Without FirstEnergy’s plants burning his coal, Murray said his own company would be forced into “immediate bankruptcy,” triggering the layoffs of more than 6,500 miners. FirstEnergy acknowledged to the AP that bankruptcy of its power-generation business was a possibility.

 

“As stated, disastrous consequences for President Trump, our electric power grid reliability, and tens of thousands of coal miners will result if this is not immediately done,” he wrote.Murray’s claims raise the possibility that Trump was warned against the move by his advisers, some of whom are known to be more cautious, or that he simply made assurances to Murray to avoid immediate confrontation.The people who worked on the decision most directly were Perry, Michael Catanzaro, who works under National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn as the top White House energy adviser, and Perry’s chief of staff, Brian McCormack, US officials told the AP.

The friendliness has been mutual: When Trump repealed an Obama administration regulation barring coal companies from dumping mine waste in streams, Murray and his sons were invited for the signing.The Energy Department has already informed Murray it will not invoke the law, an official with knowledge of the decision told the AP.Coal has become an increasingly unattractive fuel for US electricity companies, which have been retiring old boilers at a record pace. At least two dozen big coal-fired plants are scheduled to shut down in coming months as utilities transition to new steam turbines fueled by cleaner-burning natural gas made more abundant in recent years by new drilling technologies.Other coal executives have urged similar government intervention to save their businesses. In a speech last week, the CEO of Peabody Energy Corp, the nation’s largest coal producer, also said a two-year moratorium on coal-plant closures was needed