While the drama between Donald Trump and his Secretary of State play out in the headlines, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry is hard at work on what is being called an unprecedented proposal to prop up the coal industry and nuclear power plants that are at risk of closing.
Following Trump’s goal to shore up aging coal and nuclear power plant operations, Sec. Perry is rapidly trying to make significant changes to the rules the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) follows to regulate power markets.
Specifically thehill.com reports: Perry wants to increase the payments to troubled coal and nuclear plants by requiring that certain regional electric grid operations pay power plants their actual costs of operating plus a “fair rate of return.”
It would be a significant shift from the bidding process now allowed and would almost certainly raise electricity costs for consumers, critics say of the plan.
But Perry’s idea has garnered significant praise from coal and nuclear industry leaders, who say it could revive plants they say deserve to be paid more.
They argue that because these plants build up larger fuel supplies than competitors producing electricity from wind and solar power, they should be paid more.
Energy Secretary Perry is not only attempting to rush the rule change through a process that could normally take year to write and even longer to enact.* Perry’s proposed changes may also violate FERC’s legal authority which by law [… ] centers on the responsibility to ensure that wholesale power rates are “just and reasonable.”
Any new regulation would have to demonstrate that without the higher payments for coal and nuclear, rates are unjust or unreasonable. If it fails to do so, a federal court could overturn the new regulation.
“FERC does not have the authority to just decide that a particular source of generation gets paid differently now because Rick Perry requested it,” said Justin Gundlach, a climate change law fellow at Columbia University Law School.
[*It should be noted that the Obama era Clean Power Plan rules took year to write and don’t enforce emission reduction until 2022.]
When nominated to lead the Dept of Energy, former Texas governor and presidential candidate Perry seemed to have little idea of the massive scope of the agency’s responsibilities. Vanity Fair wrote in an article this summer: Since Perry was confirmed, his role has been ceremonial and bizarre. He pops up in distant lands and tweets in praise of this or that D.O.E. program while his masters inside the White House create budgets to eliminate those very programs. His sporadic public communications have had in them something of the shell-shocked grandmother […]
He seems to have warmed to one task — putting his thumb on the scale for carbon emissions and toxic waste while carrying out climate change denier- in- chief Donald Trump’s orders.