Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s hopes of a fast bailout for U.S. coal and nuclear operators may be evaporating, after the newly-installed chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) asked for a 30-day delay in the process.
Perry had instructed FERC to reach a decision by December 11, Politico Morning Energy recalls, but Kevin McIntyre apparently wants the regulatory agency he now leads to actually do its job, rather than just rubber-stamping Perry’s plan.
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“The proposed extension is critical to afford adequate time for the new Commissioners to consider the voluminous record and engage fully in deliberations,” he wrote last Thursday evening, adding that two of the five FERC commissioners only joined the organization over the last two weeks. McIntyre “also notes the high volume of comments—more than 1,500—received on the proposal,” ME states. Other commissioners have previously expressed serious skepticism about the bailout.
It’s up to Perry to decide whether to grant the extension. A spokesperson said only that McIntyre’s letter had been received, and was under review.
“Perry’s urgency seems to be driven by fears that coal-fired power plants operated by FirstEnergy Solutions could shut down if the company falls into bankruptcy—an occurrence that Murray Energy chief Bob Murray has warned would sink his coal mining company,” Morning Energy reports. Meanwhile, “photos published Thursday show coal magnate Bob Murray personally pitching Perry on his plan to save struggling coal companies just three weeks before Perry ordered a grid study later used to support a proposed rule to reward coal and nuclear power plants for providing ‘grid resiliency.’”
The latest estimated cost of the bailout stands at 27,000 premature deaths and US$263 billion by 2045, according to analysis by the Environmental Working Group. “Another analysis estimates that the coal bailout alone would cause about 1,400 premature deaths and 23,000 cases of asthma each year,” EWG’s Grant Smith and Bill Walker report on EcoWatch.
“Perry claims that keeping the coal and nuclear plants open is necessary to guarantee the reliability of the nation’s electrical grid, despite the fact that some analysts say it would actually decrease reliability and national security,” they write. “Last month, an Environmental Working Group report showed the real reason the coal and nuclear industries are so desperate for a ratepayer bailout of their dying technologies: Without the subsidies, utilities propose to close 75 coal and nuclear generating units in just three years.”
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